Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Photo from West Chester University iNOV8 Website

The Francis Harvey Green library is a massive building, which accommodates thousands of students every day as they look for books, resources, study spots and even Starbucks. In a little room on the first floor, a maker lab goes unnoticed by the majority of the student body. Built with the purpose of creativity and collaboration, this resource was built for the curious student.

The maker lab is home to an array of technology available for students free of charge. 3D printers and high tech computers line the tables, as well as an array of other technology. One of the people that helped the space become a reality is Professor Jordan Schugar. He describes the lab as “only limited by your imagination.”

“We are about making. And we are about creative problem solving . . .We have several 3D printers, a Glowforge laser cutter, 3D scanners, vinyl cutters (for making t-shirts, for instance) and then access to a whole host of other technologies like VR kits. One of our philosophies is a ‘yes, and…’ approach. We rarely (if ever) use the word ‘no,’” said Schugar.

The lesser known component of the maker lab is INOV8, a team of students that comes together to work on group and personal projects. The INOV8 website page lists their goals, which aims to “advance educational entrepreneurialism, foster critical thinking with emerging technologies and build a greater understanding of the economic, career and social value of technological innovations for the community at West Chester University.”

A current member of the INOV8 team is graduate student Lambert Cheung, who discovered the group through his classes.

“I was in EDM 100 or 101, and Dr. Penny taught us the uses of 3D-Printing and Laser Cutting. I became interested and began to visit the lab. In truth, I had never seen myself as a computer person or someone incredibly technologically able, but this lab taught me that it’s not as difficult as it appears,” said Cheung.

Cheung encourages students to be curious about what the maker lab has to offer, emphasizing the lack of labels on what the room is for. In the future, he hopes to see more people get involved with the lab itself.

“We are a very open group, providing different angles and insights in the space of “making.” Such as the computer building I mentioned. A lot of people would look at it as a means just for gaming, or a hobby . . . People will come and poke their heads in from time to time, but get really intimidated when they see all the parts lying around,” said Cheung.

The maker lab is open when a member of INOV8 is present, something that has been greatly affected by the small number of students involved. The initiate has also faced other setbacks in their innovation journey.

“We’ve had many setbacks mostly due to time and money. As a grassroots faculty-led, bottom up approach, we’ve tried to stay away from campus politics, but that too has its own problems . . . Inevitably when the FHG Library is overhauled the idea is to create a more permanent makerspace; so what’s in FHG 128 is a sort of placeholder for what could be,” said Schugar.

Where will the maker space be headed in the future? That’s up to the student body. Students are encouraged to bring new ideas and perspectives to the room. INOV8 and the maker space are waiting for the curious mind just on the first floor of Francis Harvey Green.

“We are always looking for good people — faculty, students, and staff — to collaborate with. We are always looking for self-motivated, curious individuals who see the value in emerging and educational technology,” said Schugar.

Caroline Helms is a first-year student majoring in English and minoring in political science.

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