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Hands-On Learning

Crafting ideas into reality on campus

It is now a year since we opened the new Swarthmore MakerSpace & Wood Shop on the ground floor of Beardsley Hall. We’re excited there’s a campus space where the Swarthmore College community can gather and make things, whether that’s a dinosaur shower head, a stylized smartphone case, or myriad other fun and interesting things. It’s all part of the “democratization of production”: 3-D printing, laser-cutting, and computer numerical control tools put the power of creation into your hands.

This space is for all students, faculty, and staff—it’s open to anyone from any department, even if the project is not for an academic function or purpose. Alumni are welcome, too, of course! (However, a class need takes priority. For example, E90, the engineering class, uses the 3-D printers often.) When you feel the creative urge, come on in to work on whatever is of interest to you. We have around 40 student-monitored hours for both the woodshop and the digital fabrication lab when folks can use the facilities.

Right now, we’re getting a lot of use from engineering classes, Naomi Safran-Hon’s sculpture class, and SwatTank students, and many seniors from the Art Department get certified in the shop. We’ve even had faculty from mathematics, biology, and physics using equipment such as our laser system, 3-D printers, and 3-D scanner.

One of the unique things about this space—and my role—is that I’m part of Information Technology Services. Our whole goal is to be interdisciplinary—to encourage the exchange of ideas across platforms and get people working together from different departments.

We’ve had some excellent projects come through here, like that from the SwatTank team Tricycle, whose automated trash sorter got a lot of attention from other students; we were able to help them print caps to go over the digital elements of their machine. It’s inspiring to see what everyone’s doing—there are people creating things in computer-assisted design for engineered parts, art models, or just fun things for daily use.

Successful growth for us would be getting more departments coming through the door to reflect a broader range of the Swarthmore community. I’d also like to see even more student-monitored hours, since it’s so important for Swatties to take ownership of MakerSpace and shape its identity. It’s great to see how much they enjoy working with and learning from other students and their projects.

If you’re interested in learning more, come to our Wednesday Night Workshop series, where we run demos, teach skills, and answer questions. 

I’m a sculptor, and when I was in graduate school, we had a developing digital fabrication lab where I took an active role in promoting it. I’m proud to do the same thing here, on a much greater scale.

MakerSpace can have many applications across disciplines, and the only limit is your imagination. Come enjoy MakerSpace for yourself!