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Create and collaborate in the new CoLab Makerspace

For today’s students to succeed in school and in the workplace, they need a particular set of skills. Skills they have acquired since elementary school. Skills that make them competitive in today’s job market.

Some of those skills include critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication — all pillars of the new space in Ohio University’s CoLab: The CoLab Makerspace.

CoLab, which opened in 2018, is a physical hub in OHIO’s Alden Library that enables and empowers students to live and grow through innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Its new makerspace opened on Jan. 13, 2020, after a crowdfunding effort to furnish the space with typical equipment found in academic makerspaces.

Students from every background are invited to explore its five main resources: A 3D printing area with two 3D printers; a fabric textile area with four distinctive sewing machines; a vinyl/papercutting section featuring a Cricut; a CNC router (computer numerical control), a computer-controlled cutting machine, and a plethora of miscellaneous hand tools and equipment.

“The main point of this space, and CoLab in general, is to expose students to innovation and creativity,” said Matt Thomson, program manager of CoLab. “The average student at Ohio University doesn’t currently have easy access to these types of equipment, so by CoLab having these entry-level, easy-to-use pieces, we can turn somebody onto 3D printing, vinyl cutting, or CNC routing.”

“Part of the CoLab initiative is the hub-and-spoke model, once we ignite the spark of making inside of a student, we can then refer them and connect them to spokes across campus that have a full 3D printing lab, a wood shop, or a metal shop,” Thomson continued. “We can also refer them to the OHIO Makes program and to the Athens Makerspace to get them connected to a significantly more equipped makerspace in the Athens community.”

Matt Thomson, program manager of CoLab, stands in the CoLab Makerspace on its opening day. Photo: Ben Siegel
Matt Thomson, program manager of CoLab, stands in the CoLab Makerspace on its opening day. Photo: Ben Siegel

Makerspaces, also known as hackspaces, are facilities that allow innovative, enterprising individuals to come together to create in a common space. They include special equipment and resources that can be used in the development of a product or project.

There are several makerspaces that exist across OHIO’s Athens Campus and throughout the region, however, the CoLab Makerspace is the first all-accessible one, meaning students don’t have to be studying within a particular college to access it.

“The purpose of our Makerspace is to provide access to creative thinking and creative making to all Ohio University students, regardless of what their program of study is and any of their background knowledge of the equipment in the space,” Thomson explained.

Winter Wilson, an OHIO senior and CoLab student leader, said sometimes makerspaces can be intimidating because of the different technology housed in them. She said the CoLab Makerspace is meant to be used by absolutely everyone, and mentioned that Thomson, along with fellow CoLab student leaders, are ready to answer any questions visitors might have.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Wilson, who is double-majoring in environmental studies and journalism with a minor in French. “Having gone through the Stanford University Innovation Fellows program, I know the value of everything learned through multidisciplinary collaboration. Being able to give that same opportunity to students across campus at OHIO is incredibly exciting. Having a physical space on campus that is not attached to any specific college, but instead is a place for people of all different disciplines to come together to engage with each other on projects outside of the classroom, is really important.”

Need to know:

Access: CoLab Makerspace, on the third floor of Alden Library in CoLab, is open to students, faculty and staff. The door will be locked, but all you have to do is swipe in with your OHIO ID. Those wishing to use the space do not need to be working on a project for a class. Just pop in and create!

Hours: CoLab has different hours than the CoLab Makerspace. For now, the Makerspace is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is closed on weekends. These hours are subject to change based on usage.

Supplies: CoLab will try to always have basic materials for the various machines, including white filament for the 3D Printers, black and white vinyl and cardstock for the Cricut, thin plywood and cardboard for the CNC, and fabric scraps along with white thread for the sewing machines. Students are also highly encouraged and welcome to bring in their own approved materials to use on the equipment.

Aspirations: Thomson said in the future, they hope to bring different make-and-take programming to the Makerspace through campus partnerships. Thomson also said community members plan on visiting to offer tutorials on sewing and using the equipment in the room.

January 15, 2020
Alaina Bartel