Makerspaces Create Innovative Ecosystem on Campus
A makerspace is a “do-it-yourself” space where people can gather to create, invent, build and learn. Makerspaces can exist in many forms and be equipped with a variety of tools and equipment, but at Kent State, makerspaces go beyond making and encourage collaborating and sharing knowledge.
According to an article in Great Value Colleges, “50 Best Maker Spaces,” Kent State University’s Design Innovation Ecosystem was ranked in the top 10 in the country, beating programs at schools such as the University of Southern California, Arizona State University, the University of Michigan and Harvard University. By default, that makes Kent State’s spaces the top in Ohio. Two examples of Kent State’s makerspaces exist under University Libraries - the Student Multimedia Studio (SMS) and Spark Innovation Studio.
Student Multimedia Studio
The Student Multimedia Studio (SMS), located on the first floor of the Kent State library, provides students with a wide range of multimedia equipment, software and support.
Hilary Kennedy, manager of library makerspaces, manages the operation of both the SMS and Spark Innovation Studio.
“A makerspace, by definition, is not intended to be one specific thing or type of space,” Kennedy said. “It is generally equipped with a variety of tools and resources, and is a place for people to collaborate, learn and share knowledge. It can also give people exposure to something they may not otherwise have access to.”
The SMS started in 1998 as a tiny, closet-sized room on the third floor with just one computer. Since then, it has grown immensely.
“We’re always looking at how we can evolve to best meet the needs of our students,” Kennedy said. “For example, there are some changes coming over the course of the next year, such as adding a few more specialized stations to the studio.”
The SMS gives students the tools to create PowerPoint, web, video/audio presentations and e-Portfolios, as well as scan and edit documents and photographs, create graphics and animation and receive one-on-one instructional support from peer mentors or professional staff.
This space offers students resources to work on a variety of multimedia projects, whether for class or personal use.
“We see anything from video editing, to audio recording, game design, animation, 3D modeling – a whole gamut of multimedia work,” Kennedy said. “We offer a variety of software tools, equipment in the space for our users.”
Everything offered at the SMS is free to students, including a 3D printing service, but surprisingly, one of the most popular services is actually something that sounds very old.
“It’s a capture station that takes old media, like VHS tapes, records, and audio cassette tapes, and digitizes them onto the computer,” Kennedy said. “You then have a digital file that you can use elsewhere.”
The SMS employs a team of student consultants that provide quick, on-call support for the students working on projects. These student consultants can be utilized for questions about the services and for help with troubleshooting software or a design process.
Spark Innovation Studio
Spark Innovation Studio is located between Starbucks and Campus Book & Supply, next to The John Elliot Center for Architecture and Environmental Design.
Spark, unlike the SMS, is offered to Kent State students, faculty and staff, as well as the surrounding community and alumni.
Spark started in 2016, with the goal of being a neutral place on campus where users from different disciplines and backgrounds can meet to learn, collaborate and create.
Spark staff train users on how to operate various prototyping equipment, ranging from 3D printers, to a laser cutter, vinyl cutter and a CNC router. New users are subject to a badging process, where they first review Spark’s general policies, safety rules and then take a quiz, in order to understand what's expected of them and how to safely work within the space. Upon completion, they receive a user badge to wear each time they return.
“We empower users to become more in control of the production of their own ideas,” Kennedy said. “And that’s anybody. We’re not just for students, we're actually for the faculty and staff of Kent State, as well as the community.”
Both the SMS and Spark also support community outreach.
“We've offered outreach to local youth,” Kennedy said. “For example, the SMS was a part of the Girls 4STEAM event this past spring. This daylong hackathon engaged females from area high schools with STEM through a variety of workshops, a keynote presentation and hands-on instruction. The aim was to inspire young women through these design challenges in hopes that they leave feeling empowered as innovators.”
Spark Innovation Studio plans on moving to the Design Innovation Hub upon the building’s completion. “Relocating to the DI Hub will help position Spark more prominently within the Design Innovation ecosystem and will help make us better known to the community at large,” Kennedy said.
Learn more about the Student Multimedia Studio