"Don't expect it to be quiet," says Joseph Hartman, dean of the Francis College of Engineering, about the college's MakerSpace. "It's a working space."
The 8,500-square-foot space is a honeycomb of student activity and a lure for future UMass Lowell engineering students.
The MakerSpace is unrecognizable as its previous incarnation as the North Campus Bookstore; the Falmouth ceilings have been peeled down, walls pulled back.
The space holds eight 3D printers and workstations for electronics and machining. There’s room for 100 students at a time and it is available to students 24 hours a day.
It’s the thing the folks in the engineering departments -- faculty and students alike -- have been waiting for to bring concepts to life, says one faculty member.
“This is really about making things real,” says plastics engineering Prof. David Kazmer. “All the time, students learn equations and math and how to do things. This maker space will let students at all levels realize their ideas.”
Kazmer says students interacting and applying concepts learned in classes creates enthusiasm, and “closes the loop on the educational experience, making it real.”
The space hums with the trial and error of students testing out ideas. Working in teams or individually, students will be able to build prototypes.
The maker space trend, which parallels a renewed interest in manufacturing in the U.S., has become a hot item and a lure to prospective students, notes Hartman.
“Imagine being able to take prospective students to this hub of engineering activity,” he says.
The space is open to other university departments, says Hartman, and it dovetails with the university’s growing DifferenceMaker effort.
“The Engineering MakerSpace supports UMass Lowell DifferenceMakers as they invent new solutions and new products for the 21st century,” says Steven Tello, associate vice chancellor for Entrepreneurship & Economic Development. “This space reflects the College of Engineering’s commitment to integrating innovation and entrepreneurship into the engineering curriculum.”
Hartman knows he will field requests for work space once people see the vast room.
“Absolutely. I’ve already had someone from art ask about using space for sculpture,” says Hartman. “And I said, we can work something out, just don’t expect it to be quiet. It’s a working space.”