Entrepreneurial pair making space to create in Watt Innovation Center
CLEMSON — Creators, inventors and designers need space to bring their ideas to life.
Fulfilling that need at Clemson University are a pair of undergraduates who, with the help of an internship program supported by the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, have built a space on campus where the university community can create, invent and learn.
“It’s called a makerspace, something our research has shown there is a real need for on campus,” said Brad Hord, a junior industrial engineering major. Hord, along with computer engineering freshman Owen Phillips, are taking advantage of a University Professional Internship Co-op (UPIC) program to create a makerspace in the new Watt Family Innovation Center.
Makerspaces, sometimes called hackerspaces or fab-labs, are catching on at leading universities. Often found in libraries, they are spaces where individuals collaborate on projects and use machines that are too expensive or large for any one person to reasonably afford.
The new Clemson makerspace opened Tuesday in room 112 of the Watt Innovation Center. It will provide users 3D printers that use plastics and resins to create an object, as well as a large support network off of which to bounce ideas.
“Our charge through the UPIC program is to get this space set up and functioning on campus so undergrads, graduate students, faculty and staff can take their ideas from concept to prototyping,” Hord said. “And we need to make it happen at little or no cost to our users.”
The idea of creating a makerspace at Clemson originated from a Creative Inquiry (CI) class and was helped along by the Spiro Institute, which serves as the hub of entrepreneurial studies on campus. Each student in the UPIC program is paid to work for 160 hours on their project per semester. Campus-wide, the program provided 850 students with experiential learning in the past academic year.
The makerspace is also being helped along with funding from the Creative Inquiry program and a couple of other entities on campus.
“The CI program has provided all of the printers we currently have available to our community of makers, and we have Tim Pruett of Machining and Technical Services to thank for the prime location made available to us in the Watt Innovation Center,” Phillips added.
Beyond the manufacturing technology, Hord and Phillips said makers will learn from their peers who will be using the space.
“With the tools come a natural exchange of ideas and learning through the network of artisans, inventors and creators who will be using the space,” Phillips said. “Members of Clemson’s makerspace will provide valuable advice and assistance to our users.”
One challenge the students face with the project is making it affordable and sustainable, so operational and capital funding will be crucial to its success.
“We recently received a student government commitment of nearly $20,000 to purchase six additional 3D printers,” said Hord. “These additional printers will go a long way toward meeting the needs of our users as interest in the makerspace grows.”
Hord and Phillips said MIT, Georgia Tech, Duke and Stanford are other universities in the makerspace arena.
“We need this makerspace at Clemson, where best is the standard,” Hord added. “Getting this up and running will be a big step toward giving our innovative makers the tools they need to create their ideas. It’s something we expect from a university of Clemson’s caliber.”