The new Maker Lab in the Educational Technology department features state of the art technology available for students to use for free.
Ed Lovitt, director of educational technology and distance learning, said the department decided to install the lab last fall after noticing trends throughout the metro area.
“Maker Labs are becoming part of the whole trend that’s going on,” Lovitt said. “We’re seeing these things [become] established. What we were doing is researching what kinds of technologies were being purchased for K-12 districts, and what was being done in the [Johnson County] Central Library.”
Senior analyst Meredith Nelson started the Maker Lab at the Johnson County Central Library, and now works in the lab at the college. Nelson described the purpose of the different types of plastics which can be used by the Lulzbot Taz 3D printers in the lab.
“We can do ABS, which is like LEGO plastic, PLA, which is another strong plastic,” Nelson said. “We can also do a flexible plastic. We also have a high temperature PLA that we use for the culinary institute particularly so that they can throw them in the dishwasher and not worry about melting or anything like that.”
The lab also features a 3D resin printer. Although it takes longer than the Taz models to finish the 3D objects it makes, it gives them the finest resolution.
“There’s a liquid in [there], and it uses light to harden liquid on certain points,” Nelson said. “There’s a dental resin that they actually use to make bridges. We can get any of those resins.”
Another piece of equipment in the lab is a laser cutter, which uses a software program called CorelDRAW to etch designs onto materials like bamboo, acrylic, paper, leather and metal.
“Our graphic design department is looking for a way that they can cut things out and then assemble them,” Lovitt said. “They’ve started to come and take a look at what we have as well.”
Jordan Straits, student, is graduating from the graphic design department in May and started experimenting with the equipment in the Maker Lab this semester. While she uses the lab for her classes, she also uses it for her own side projects.
“One of my teachers let me know about it, their laser etching and cutter,” Straits said. “So, I just went in there to kind of play. I’m doing a lot of branding projects right now. Company branding, logos, business cards, signage, thinking of how it might apply to their building.”
In addition to the large pieces of technology, the lab also has a soldering station, raspberry pis, arduino kits and a VR station available for use. Lovitt wants to use the lab to spark interest in the technology among teachers and students.
“[We want to start] that interest in that kind of technology that might spread across campus,” Lovitt said. “What we’re hoping is that instructors, or students, will see potential possibility and that that will grow. It’s an attempt to expose everyone on campus to these tools.”
The lab is free for students to use, although they must register for a time online.
“It’s awesome that we have those resources for free,” Straits said. “All you have to pay for is the materials.”
To register to use the equipment, click here.