maker space 1

~get creative~

Feeling crafty? Have you thought of a cool way to pimp your dorm room (pipe cleaners!!!!)? Bwogger Henry Litwhiler takes us to the newly opened Maker Space to talk about the innovative opportunities that are now available.

For those currently harboring detailed blueprints for an erotic tea set under their floorboards, Columbia has launched a surprisingly generous initiative to make those and other friendship-straining dreams come true. Called the Columbia Maker Space, the new workshop is situated on the 12th floor of Mudd and features a wide array of equipment and materials for all manner of projects. The room features two large and two small 3D printers, a drill press, three rather high-tech sewing machines, an assortment of power and woodworking tools, a soldering bench, a vinyl cutter, and a bike station. A laser cutter is expected to arrive soon.

With the blessing of Dean Boyce and under the advisement of Professor John Kymissis, the Space has opened its doors to students at CC and SEAS, regardless of major. When asked about a certain affiliated women’s college, Professor Kymissis said that the organizers were “working on Barnard” and that “nobody’s really sure.” One organizer indicated that the Maker Space has been “hesitant” to open itself up to graduate students for fear that they’d overrun the place for research.

Those who’d like to make use of the space’s resources need only sign up for a brief safety training session. In addition, a team of trained volunteers, dubbed “Superusers,” will be on hand for scheduled office hours to answer questions and provide instruction.

Beyond that, students are left largely to their own devices. When asked if there were any guidelines for what could be made at the CMS, Kymissis said that there was “no limit.” Dreams of your correspondent notwithstanding, it isn’t difficult to imagine ways in which restrictions could be incurred by some enthusiastic tinkerers (coining “Bonggate” now). At the time of Monday’s information session, two 3D printers were chugging away at a small Statue of Liberty and a (fully platonic) teacup.

If you’re wondering why and how the University is paying for this playground, you aren’t alone. Professor Kymissis described the current funding situation as a “blank check,” which he expects to “end at some point.” For the time being, says Kymissis, Dean Boyce wants to see the space become hip and functional before dealing with questions of fundraising.

The CMS currently offers a wide assortment of cheaper raw materials free of charge, but high-aiming makers will have to come up with more expensive building blocks on their own. Given Columbia students’ penchant for going Ocean’s Eleven on free consumables, however, the duct tape giveaway might not last terribly long. Thrifty builders would do well to hop aboard the pipe cleaner and soldering wire gravy train while they can.

Information about the Maker Space and upcoming events can be found on its Facebook page.