Biology Professors Create Maker Space for Students
Drs. Michael Boller, Fernando Ontiveros-Llamas, and Johnathan Millen, all biology professors at St. John Fisher College, are working to create a Maker Space on campus for students. The goal is to provide the campus community with workshop space to flex their creative muscles to design and build.
A Maker Space cannot be defined by a specific set of tools or techniques. While this may be the case, they have brought together numerous resources to allow students, faculty, and staff to come together to create.
With the Maker Space, Boller said the professors hope to encourage creative, higher-level problem-solving and spark inventive thoughts on campus by providing the opportunity to broaden students’ work in the physical world in new ways.
“We hope to spur new thinking on how to address real-world problems, be it in scientific research, computers, the Internet of Things, sustainability, health care, or other fields that we’re not yet connecting,” shared Boller. “We want to allow people to have fun learning new skills, make stuff, and be creative.”
Some of the acquired resources for the Maker Space include 3-D printers, a GlowForge laser printer and other laser cutters, craft cutters, Arduino microcontroller-based computers, a screen printer, CNC routers, and other tools.
This will provide a space where students can explore design and 3-D printing, small woodworking, t-shirt design, and laser cutting. Microcontroller-based computers can be built to create new methods of collecting data, incorporating circuits into other objects, and automating systems. It will be something that changes over time as new techniques and tools become available. For example, EcoRep students have used the Glow Forge to make wooden nametags and signs for upcoming projects.
Originally, many of the tools were located in different spaces around campus. Bringing the equipment—and the students and faculty who know how to use them—together creates a smoother process.
“There is no telling the new ideas and projects that would have already come to fruition had the creative energy, ideas, perspectives, and techniques already been gathered in one place,” said Boller.
Students, faculty, and staff will find immediate benefit from the Maker Space as it influences research, courses, and student explanation of ideas. A student researcher in Ontiveros’ lab used the space to look at a variety of microfluidic and other cell biology techniques using objects they have built with a number of tools.
A new course that will launch in spring 2021 will use the space to challenge students to look at sustainable product design. Students will study design principles, learn a variety of techniques, and apply life-cycle analysis to understand the impacts of the materials economy.
“We are excited to facilitate new ideas and project in the space in the future,” said Boller.