16:29 PM

Makerspace project to create high and low tech collaborative space in Neumann Library

Donna Elrod is the kind of person who likes to talk to lots of people, come up with a plan and work ahead. She likes to figure out how things can be designed to create something practical, but she’s not the “techy” type. Conversely, her son Andrew is a bit of a procrastinator, much prefers to work alone, and thrives in a tech space.

They work together, not just in University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Alfred R. Neumann Library, but as part of the same cohort in a Master of Library Science program at Texas Woman’s University, set to graduate this summer.

And although their master's degree isn’t from UH-Clear Lake, their final practicum project, which they are completing together, will benefit Hawks in the Neumann Library. The project reflects elements of both their interests and personalities—some creativity along with some art and design skills, and lots of technology.

Donna, who is in her fourth year as the supervisor of Circulation Services in the library, said their final practicum requires students to innovate and implement a new learning opportunity in a library.

“Andrew and I decided to propose creating a makerspace in the Neumann Library,” she said. “There’s a trend in bringing a makerspace into educational settings that include high tech elements as well as ‘low tech,’ which for our project, would include implementing textiles, sewing, fabric, origami, geometrical designs, and even just simple drawings that could translate to creating a model for something bigger.”

A makerspace is a collaborative workspace inside a school, library or work area that is designated for making, learning, exploring or sharing ideas using high tech, low tech, or even no tech tools. Spaces are open to students and have a variety of “maker” equipment, like sewing machines, 3D printers, laser cutters, and the like.

Andrew, who is a copy cataloger in the library, said he had experience with 3D printing and the technology had advanced so much, it was possible to have one in a library or even at home.

“A makerspace serves to further the role of a library,” he said. “It’s a space where emergent and innovative technology is available to people. It’s still expensive, so this is a place to go where you can get access to it free and with support. The impetus is to pursue what you want to do with the technology. There are so many possibilities.”

Donna said that the ideas coming out of a makerspace could have implications reaching as far as NASA. “The creative side of this practicum is what’s in my wheelhouse,” she said.

“I can see how some STEM-related projects can translate into something useful,” she explained. “With textiles and sewing, I can see the ties to NASA because their use of parachutes, and even the astronauts’ suits, involve fabric, different kinds of thread and sewing. Everything in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab are textiles on metal.”

 In a makerspace, she continued, all the tools can be brought together so students have something very STEM-based to start with, and then translate it into something bigger.

 “The possibilities are very exciting,” she said.

“Being able to do it this way speeds up the innovation process,” Andrew said. “If you have an idea, you don’t have to spend money on prototypes. In a makerspace, you can figure out a design that works for free, then you can spend the money where you need to later.”

Donna said that to a UHCL student, the makerspace in the library would look like a space to explore, expand knowledge, collaborate, and find a creative outlet where students might not realize they had one.

“There are no parameters, no box to stay inside,” she said.

They envision the makerspace to be in a collaborative, visible space in the library such as the XR lab or one of the classrooms in which high-tech activity can take place.

“We also envision makerspace ‘pop-ups’ in which for a specific period of time, something will be available in a certain space for students to utilize,” Donna said. “We would place the tools in that space, like sewing machines, 3D printers, or origami projects to start trying it out and get momentum.”

She added that although their approaches were very different in what they could bring to the project, their combined strengths created a well-rounded project.

“We are taking what we’ve learned in our program and applying it here in our library at UHCL,” she said. “We hope that within the next year, students here will benefit from having a makerspace and we believe it will positively impact the future of this space in the library.”

For more information about the Alfred R. Neumann Library, visit www.uhcl.edu/library/.