Schwartz Center ‘makerspace’ sparks creativity among students

Paige Brown

Spark Innovation Studio, a “makerspace” on campus, has opened with access to 3-D printing, laser cutting and prototyping.

A makerspace is a place where people with shared interests, often in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects and share ideas, equipment and knowledge.

“We see it as a collaborative space on campus for anybody in the Kent State community to come to create, design and learn,” said Hilary Kennedy, student multimedia studio manager. “It’s a cross-disciplinary space, so we really love seeing students from different majors come in and work on projects or learn something new out of their own wheelhouse and collaborate with other students.”

The name “Spark” is not an acronym — Kennedy said it represents the idea of sparking creativity and new ideas.

Spark Innovation Studio is open to the entire Kent State community and is currently free; however, people may not be able to use the machinery their first time at the space.

“There is a badging process,” said Outreach Program Officer Jeffery Jones. “We want to keep safety first so we have the students get badged (watch tutorials and get information needed to work with equipment safely) and each piece of machinery has its own badging process.”

Spark Studio welcomes new ideas and people who have never used machinery before. Training is offered and there are tutorials online for people to look at before even stepping foot in the studio.

“What we really love about the space that makes it different from other makerspaces on campus is that we train users on how to use the equipment themselves and then they’re able to come back once they’re approved and run the equipment themselves,” Kennedy said. “It really empowers the user, which I think is great.”

Spark is made up of two rooms: the makerspace that has all the machines, and another room referred to as the “dirty room,” which is the project studio space. Anything from casting concrete panels to a large sandbox for the Kent State Robotics Club to work on their mining robot can be found in the space.

Jones mentioned one of the most relatable projects he has seen was a young man who broke his taillight making a 3-D model to create a new one.

“It wasn’t too big, it wasn’t anything too arduous, but it was a cool little project,” Jones said.

There had been talk about wanting to start a makerspace on campus for a long time, but Kennedy said serious conversations about opening Spark began in January 2016.

“It was just a matter of finding where to open it and who to help run it,” Kennedy said.

Jones was hired as part of the Spark team in December to help run it and is excited about the space.

“I just wanted to get a mastery of all the machinery so I can teach and help others and share the knowledge,” Jones said.

There are other makerspaces on campus, such as the Student Multimedia Studio in the University Library, but Spark has the most equipment and space to work with.

The Spark Innovation Studio, located in Room 191 and 192 of the Schwartz Center, is a collaboration between the University Libraries and LaunchNet Kent State, with additional funding and support from other colleges and departments.

“It’s a really great space to work in,” Kennedy said. “There’s not a lot of spaces like that on campus that you can come in and use for free and not be afraid to get the space a little dirty.”

Paige Brown is the libraries reporter for the Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]