The rotating head on the monitor looked like it was slowly melting while simultaneously being swallowed by a plasmatic substance of green and gray.
There’s no denying – it looked freaky.
This image wasn’t from a student-made film, but a 3-D scanner in the process of capturing the likeness of a BSU student.
Being made virtual on this afternoon were the members of Art Professor Magaly Ponce’s Three Dimensional Design course.
“It felt goofy, but it was really cool and interesting to watch the process,” Amanda Hebert, ’21, a psychology major from Falmouth, said of being scanned. Once the job was done, Amanda, who is minoring in art, could see a close-to-exact replica of her head and shoulders on the monitor mounted on a nearby wall. “It doesn’t get more interactive than that,” she said.
The students in the class were taking turns being scanned inside room 151 of the Dana Mohler-Faria Science and Mathematics Center, also known as the BSU Think Tank. It’s one of a conjoined group of labs that comprise BSU’s new Makerspace network.
Creating the 3-D scan involved a roving scanner held a foot or two away by a classmate, while Amanda sat stone-still in a chair, eyes closed. It takes about five minutes to complete the process. Then the information can be edited using specialized software before being transferred to a 3-D printer, and an hour or so later, voila: a mini Amanda that fits in the palm of one’s hand.
3-D scanners and printers? Lifelike renderings of real students created in the time it takes to watch a CSI episode? Lab space after lab space featuring tools both old fashioned and cutting edge? Indeed. It’s all part of Makerspace, and it’s enough to make some older alumni jealous, especially when recalling days spent inside the old Conant Science Building where Bunsen burners and Petri dishes were the order of the day.
“It’s engineering, science and art, all intertwined in this idea of hands-on learning,” said Susan Savill, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Physics, who worked with Robert Monteith, the director of the network, and others to develop BSU’s Makerspace.
The Think Tank opened its doors in November 2018, funded by a BSU grant for academic innovation secured by Dr. Michael Black and Robert Monteith. Other components of the network were already in place.
After the Think Tank began operating, it became the hub, and its development inspired the idea that BSU’s pre-existing labs and workshops could all work together in support of student makers.
The other spaces are the university’s wind tunnel, electronics and robotics lab, academic machine shop and art lab, each overseen by the relevant department.
The creation of Makerspace comes as professors seek to challenge students to solve problems and learn by doing. Meanwhile, interactive labs and workshops are becoming more common in higher education, according to Professor Savill.
Evan Hultstrom, ’19, an aviation science major from York, Maine, spent time in the lab creating a container used in flight team competitions. “I thought it was so much fun, just going in there. I was like a kid in a candy shop,” he said.
Students have used the Makerspace facilities to create artwork, electronics, models for lab experiments and much more.
Robert Monteith, whose full title is analytical instrumentation engineer, likes watching the reactions of students once they realize all the tools now at their disposal. “I find that for some students it just clicks; you can see their minds start to race as they realize all the possibilities that the space opens up,” he said. “Other students have to be guided, because they don’t understand what the capabilities are and how they relate to the things they want to accomplish.
“Most people aren’t exposed to this kind of equipment, and there’s a learning curve,” he continued. “But once you open their eyes to what’s possible, that’s when the magic happens, and their creativity comes out.”
A number of faculty members are closely involved with Makerspace, including Professor Savill, Dr. Michael Black and Dr. Martin Grossman, as well as Dr. Jennie Aizenman, director of the Center for the Advancement of STEM Education. There is also a Makerspace board of faculty and administrators who oversee the operations of the labs.
Makerspace holds an appeal for learners of just about any discipline or skill level, said Dr. Cindy Kane, special assistant to the provost for strategic initiatives, who was integral in making it a reality.
“It’s already shown to be perfect for the novice maker who wants to learn about new technology, a budding entrepreneur who is looking to design a product, or a seasoned, technically minded person working through research or projects for a course,” she said. “The fact that it can all happen in a collaborative space is so exciting.”
When Professor Ponce held her class inside the Think Tank, she was hoping to expose her students to one of the more cutting-edge ways of making art, using 3-D scanners and printers.
“They have the best toys,” she said of the Think Tank. Then she added that it’s not just playing around that’s done in these spaces. “It allows my students to experience a form of 3-D creating and then go back
to traditional sculpting.”
In other words, BSU students now have the best of both worlds – the virtual and the hands-on.
Makerspace has tools and technology galore. Here’s a sampling…
The Think Tank is home to four 3-D printers, a vacuum former, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, embroidery machine, vacuum chamber, circuit board printer, two soldering stations, a 3-D scanner and lots more.
The key value of this space is in its ability to integrate specific resources that enable programmed, curriculum-based learning, as well as facilitate access to more users, particularly early/
novice users in the community.
The Machine Shop features a CNC plasma cutter, a laser cutter, two milling machines, a lathe, a vertical band saw and other saws.
Students can use the shop for their own projects, and it is also where parts and support items needed for labs located throughout the Science and Mathematics Center can be made.
The Electronics and Robotics Lab features the tools and parts necessary to build working electronics, including robotics kits by Lego.
It’s a classroom and research space where students learn to design and build electronic circuits, microcontrollers, robots, drones and related technology.
The Wind Tunnel allows students to conduct experiments in meteorology, aviation, physics and engineering when the simulation of wind conditions is necessary.
The Art Space is home to tools and space for welding, sculpting and more.
Making a model student step-by-step with 3-D printing
- Rebecca Calixte, ’21, captures an image of Sarah Lavoie, ’22, with a roving scanner as Kevin Monteith, ’20, lab supervisor, looks on.
- Kevin Monteith shows the students how to edit the scanned image.
- The 3-D printer begins to create a replica of the scan.
- A student holds an example of a final 3-D printed creation.