Rutgers Makerspace provides students with skills, platform to bring their projects to life
A unit within the Division of Continuing Studies, Rutgers Makerspace, employs an inclusive environment for students and community members to make their projects a reality.
Recently, a club was created to utilize the Makerspace facility and expand its outreach.
“We’ve had over 500 students in this building just this semester,” said Lee Pagenkopf, program coordinator at the Rutgers Center of for Innovation Education.
It is only a few weeks into the semester and the group already has more attendance than during the fall semester, he said.The Makerspace student club meets every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Makerspace on Livingston Campus.
Nestled less than a half a mile from the Livingston Student Center, Makerspace offers a variety of technology for creators. The workstations include 3D printers, scanning, laser cutters, a wood shop and several other facilities, according to their website.
The group ensures every student who wants to use a machine is properly trained before using it, Pagenkopf said.
“We assume that (students) come in knowing nothing — we are here to teach the very basics,” he said.
The Rutgers Makerspace is a place for Rutgers affiliates of all experience levels to bring their ideas into reality, according to their website.
Members of the club are from a variety of backgrounds and majors, Pagenkopf said. Whether they are experienced or not, everyone is welcome.
“We think we can teach (students) any machine in here in under a half hour,” he said.
The University joins thousands of other Makerspaces around the world. Many Universities have been running such facilities for years.
“This an effort to keeping up with the Joneses,” Pagenkopf said. “Schools around the area already have well-developed Makerspaces,” he said.
Pagenkopf said high school students come in to observe the Makerspace and use it as a deciding factor as to whether they want to attend Rutgers.
Recently, students created an organized club to strengthen involvement in the Makerspace community.
The club is currently aspiring to work on more projects and enter competitions, said Abbas Furniturewalla, a School of Engineering senior and president of the Rutgers Makerspace Club.
“We are trying to work with other organizations such as the Engineering Governing Council,” he said.
Rutgers Makerspace invites industry professionals to come to events and speak with students about what to expect when they graduate, Furniturewalla said.
In terms of sponsoring events, the club hopes to bring new faces to the Makerspace and make use of its growing technology.
“We’ve been sort of a myth around campus where students didn’t really know if we exist,” Pagenkopf said. “The Makerspace club has been instrumental in bringing new students into the building."
Throughout the spring semester the Makerspace will receive about $125,000 worth of equipment, he said.
The club puts all of its money back into the Makerspace to ensure that if a student needs access to a certain machine, they have it, he said.
“The Rutgers Makerspace club has workshop days where we are working on our own projects and get students thinking about their own projects they want to do,” Furniturewalla said. "We not only want engineers but people who are artistic, good at programming and who just want to work on their own do it yourself (DIY) projects."
Rutgers Makerspace hopes to encourage the cross-curricular cooperative development of ideas and projects, Pagenkopf said. Ideas are never limited in the Makerspace.
“There are classes that we’re working with that are starting to make Makerspace integration a requirement,” Pagenkopf said.
The Rutgers Makerspace often visits local K-12 schools and gives workshops on how they can improve their own spaces.
“I am not sure Rutgers realizes that these sort of DIY spaces are going to be important to students,” Pagenkopf said. “As they decide what college to go to their looking at spaces like these to sort of be a part of their undergraduate experience."
In bringing innovative students to the University, Pagenkopf and Furniturewalla hope to grow the space and club to have an important impact on campus, they said.
"In the future, I want to start a 'maker league' where we have students develop teams and work on projects," Pagenkopf said.
Sharbel Skaff is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in exercise science. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.