The JMU 3SPACE was founded by Dr. Laura Taalman in 2013. Dr. Taalman used funds from the Department of Math and Statistics and College of Science and Math to purchase a nine 3D printers and peripherals to equip the space. The space is in Burruss Hall, room 349, a building commonly used for math classes. Dr. Taalman also developed a one credit general education course (GSCI 104) to fulfill a science lab requirement to get students into the space. The space has been programmed consistently with that class and others as auxiliary instruction, and frequent faculty and outreach workshops. The newly formed JMU 3D printing club also uses the space.
Students currently enrolled in GSCI 104 have JAC card access to the space. Students who have passed GSCI 104 and are currently enrolled at JMU can also have access upon request. Faculty who have attended workshops and/or completed safety training have access. In theory, students and faculty have 24 hour access via JAC card, but the building is subject to closing at night.
We have 8 Affinia H series 3D printers, 1 Makerbot Replicator 2, 1 CubeX, and 1 Makerbot Digitizer 3D scanner. The room is also equipped with iMac computers to drive the machines, and a tech classroom setup.
Currently, it is free for everyone eligible to use the space. Since this is only the second year of the space, we are considering other funding models, like materials fees or self supply subsidy.
Three faculty members are in charge of the space: Daniel Robinson (IVS), Jaime Calcagno-Roach (CIT) and Rebecca Field (Math) who lead the space and run events, classes, etc as part of their load (i.e. for no additional support). One student TA is employed to help with equipment upkeep and participates in meetings.
We offer faculty introductory level training in 3D printing, as well as advanced mentoring for students and faculty.
The space is used for the GSCI 104 class and it’s students. Other classes use the space periodically for units. CIT sponsors a number of workshops and sandboxes through the year. Numerous outreach efforts are occur through the year, for example, we have had two visits from a math class from Harrisonburg High School in the fall. The new 3D printing club is exploring the options for printathons and other special events.
The 3SPACE has enabled faculty from many disciplines to take on new skills that directly effect students and allow them to make things in ways they have new been able to before. This cohort of faulty and students are now more interested in ever in using the available technology to work through ideas and collaborate.
Access and management have been challenging. Ensuring the students have appropriate training and the space is safe when not under the watch of a faculty member is always first in our minds. Infrastructure in terms of management has been effective, but is challenging at times. We have a dedicated undergraduate teaching assistant, and without his work the space would be unmanageable. The budget model is also in need of rethinking. Since the space is relatively new, the budget is in flux and we are thinking about how to address fundraising and sustainable budgeting. These growing pains are natural since we don’t have years of experience to draw on, we have to estimate our needs more that we’d like. We are now at a point in which we can draw on experience and make educated decisions.
In an institution like ours, the most important factor to me is some sort of tie to curriculum. With so many disciplines having access to the tools that one would find in a makerspace, the effort must be to transcend tools and gadgets, and to build community. This is the most important challenge to address when starting a makerspace. I haven’t seen the evidence, at least on our campus, that if you build it, they will come. There must be something more.