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Making and Innovating: Year One at Two Universities

Jonathan Smith and Jenny Wong-Welch

Jonathan Smith and Jenny Wong-Welch

Jenny Wong-Welch, STEM Librarian at San Diego State University (SDSU), said that the state universities in California focus on teaching and education.  SDSU is one of 23 universities in the State University system and is the most southern one. There is only 1 library at each of these universities.

Planning a makerspace. Jenny was heavily influenced by her father, an engineer. He told her that you must have the tools and equipment to do something.  She and he toured makerspaces across the country. SDSU started its makerspace development by presenting pop-up 3D printing workshops over 3 months.  Jenny did a survey during 3 of those workshops, which described how 3D printers work and what you can do with them.  Based on her surveys, she was able to demonstrate there was a demand on campus. Here is SDSU’s needs assessment, which focuses on transformational experiences for students.

Needs Assessment

Although SDSU had a 3D printer, Jenny wanted to have more–a complete makerspace–and began implementing it.  A student-driven mini-makerspace, buildIT, was created, and students were taught how to use it.


The website was created, and scanners and more 3D printers (they now have 4) were added. Some technologies were revived: things that had been purchased but were not being used were brought into the makerspace (i.e., Google Glass, a multi-touch table, a vinyl cutter, and aa 3Doodler pen). The makerspace grew and needed more space where students could come in and build a community. After moving 3 times, it is now located on main floor in a nice windowed area. Here is a view of the evolution of the space.

Evolution of the space

3D printing is now offered with free consumables; each user is limited to 3 hours/week print time. Workshops and consultations are scheduled using the software. The makerspace is funded by a part of student fees that are designated for technology, grants, and sponsorships.

Maintenance is an ongoing task; tools and supplies are needed to fix the printer, and they don’t come from traditional suppliers of teaching materials. Who fixes the printers?  Jenny does!  Software must be updated; supplies must be replaced; and tools must be inventoried.

Students were recruited as “Master Builders”; they volunteer 3 hours/week to teach users about the printers and how to use the makerspace. So far, 79 students have been recruited; most are engineering majors. Master Builder meetings to share knowledge are held for 1 hour each week where the attendees learn and share knowledge about maintaining printers, the company that produces them, etc. They can also do projects; here are some of them: name tags, a skateboard rack, and others..

Master Builder Projects

They are taught about intellectual property rights. Art and business majors have joined the program. There is a lot of peer to peer instruction and they also teach Jenny.

Jonathan Smith, now Systems Librarian at Sonoma State University and formerly at CSU San Bernardino (CSU-SB), described the planning process that he experienced. He went to a MakerFaire and got an insight that a makerspace would be useful in the library. So he created the Innovation Lab open to all students regardless of their major.

Innovation Lab

He said that the maker lab should be in the main library because it is used by most of the students. Funding for his makerspace came from student fees and a grant of $52,000 for technology. Development of the makerspace was readily approved because its cost did not come out of the library budget. One problem he encountered was that the purchasing office did not like buying things from overseas, so it took a long time to acquire equipment. He counseled makerspace developers to take some time to learn, but don’t take too much time. Think about location.  He got a prime location on the first floor next to the Reference Desk, so he had lots of foot traffic and students curious about what was going on in the space.  Space limitations will affect what equipment you will be using; considerations include ventilation, noise, power, and work space for the users.  Be sure to have plenty of electricity and network connectivity. Form partnerships and be community driven!

At CSU-SB, 3D printing is free to students, who are limited 2 hours/week of printing, which is increased to 4 hours/week if they attend a workshop on Tinkercad, a 3D design tool. The maker space has lots of electronics (see figure below), so computer science students got very excited.


Smith noted that it is necessary to have a background in electronics to be able to use littleBits. The SparkFun inventor’s kit is an excellent way to get into using Arduino and  has excellent manual. They do not do any soldering because of concerns about the fumes in the library, but are trying to figure out how to add it to the space.

Here is some of the other equipment in the library’s makerspace:

Other Equipment in the Makerspace

Some ceramics students brought a creation to the Innovation Lab and printed them–an example of cross-disciplinary activity.  David SLS-2 is an excellent 3D scanner. Oculus Rift is very popular.

Here are their maintenance policies:


Outreach to students occurs through clubs, etc. Lots of peer to peer instruction takes place spontaneously.  The maker space has become the “Third place” for students to hand out. About half of students using the space were computer science and engineering majors; they have a natural affinity for this.

Don Hawkins

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