Library Makerspace - a community hub of creativity and innovation

Library Makerspace - a community hub of creativity and innovation

DVCA Newsletter - 1806 - Makerspace
The 3D printers enable innovation and problem-solving at the Library’s Makerspace.

An autonomous robot, 3D printed radiation test rats and a hovercraft are just some of the quirky creations to evolve from UOW’s Library Makerspace since it opened just over a year ago.

The space has captured the creative minds of students and staff, with a range state-of-the-art technologies available for experimentation. These include 3D printers, virtual reality equipment, high-end development computers, audio and video editing software, music creation equipment, wood carving, sewing and embroiding machines and more.

With new technology at students’ fingertips, the Makerspace has been a source of learning, teaching, collaborating, supporting and in several cases, problem-solving.

Makerspace Coordinator Nathan Riggir says they’ve had a fantastic response from students so far.

“They can’t believe they have access to a lot of the equipment, tools and technology. A lot of them are really getting into the social side of things too, we’re trying to build a community where everyone shares ideas and knowledge, encouraging peer assisted learning.

The space has been utilised for both academic assignments and personal interest projects, providing a domain for students to develop ideas and bring them to fruition themselves.

“We had one research student who was working out the radiation received by rats during medical CT scans, so he ended up 3D printing a mould of a rat, filled it up with gel and then used that to test on.

“We have also helped to support MECH215, a Mechanical Engineering subject, where students had to build an autonomous robot for one of their assignments and a couple of students used the 3D printers to build their structure,” Nathan explained.

The Virtual Reality equipment in the Makerspace has also assisted medical and nursing students with their studies. A program called ‘Organon’, allows them to bring up a part of the human body , for example the Cardiovascular system, displaying a virtual reality model . The students can then rotate the virtual model and remove parts, enabling them to see what’s underneath, as they would do in practical learning.

Nathan says the space offers countless benefits, arming students with advanced technical skills and adding a significant edge to their capabilities as they enter the workforce.

Since opening just over a year ago, more than 40 students have been trained up as mentors in the space, assisting other students to use the equipment and gaining valuable experience overseeing and supporting their peers.

3D printers and VR have proven most popular. Over the last 12 months, more than 25 kilometres of filament which runs through the printers has been used on approximately 2,000 jobs.

The technology has also been used to design items which have assisted with problem-solving.

“We have collaborated with UOW Wellbeing to create boomerang bags, targeting the issue of single use plastic bags. We had a workshop recently where 20 students made their own bags from recycled curtains and fabrics,” Nathan said.

Not only is the space supporting students, but it has also assisted staff with their research needs.

Dr Gokhan Tolun, a Senior Lecturer from the School of Chemistry needed some tweezer sleeves developed to assist in handling the tweezers in the -160 degree Celcius cryogenic fluids being used by the CRYO EM Facility. Commercially available sleeves had been identified as being an unsuitable length prompting Dr Tolun to ask the Makerspace for assistance in developing a bespoke version.

“We designed the sleeve, identified and secured the appropriate elastic, rubber-like material which is high friction and low thermal conductivity and therefore not a conductor of liquid nitrogen temperatures, then we 3D printed it. It worked so well, he requested another five of them,” Nathan said.

The popularity of the Makerspace has grown exponentially thanks to the creation of a UOW club. In 2016, the club started with just one member when the Makerspace idea was initiated, and has since grown to more than 450 people.

The Club has a robotics team who are competing at the Queensland University of Technology robotics competition with their development of an autonomous robot designed to follow a line around a track. One of their other pipeline projects is to modify a vending machine to dispense consumables for students personal projects, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Since opening, the space has received more than 39,000 visits, 220 safety inductions have been conducted, and 640 students have been inducted to use all the equipment safely.