NVC STEAM Makerspace Creating Innovators

Ten years ago, Southern Methodist University partnered with Lockheed Martin to open SMU’s Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Lab in Fort Worth. The defense contractor’s same lab in California is notorious for developing the nation’s fastest and most versatile military jets. The SMU and Lockheed partnership was the birth of “makerspaces.”

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high-tech to no-tech tools, according to Makerspaces.com.

Northwest Vista College just unveiled its NVC STEAM Makerspace to students after spring break. Though it’s still in the beginning stages and a long way from military jets, the area is a collaborative space between a variety of departments such as Engineering, 3-D Animation, Gaming, Fine Arts and Science. The purpose is to bring employees, faculty and students together in one space to make innovative projects.

Already students are putting it to good use. Kyle Ladika of the NVC Engineering Club recently shared a way to make gaming more “healthy.” The club is transforming a bike into a gaming vehicle complete with a Game Cube, projector and battery packs so that after people ride it, they can project and play the game off of a building. The club also hopes to make a commercial submarine drone.

Prior to the makerspace, Kyle said he and his members used Thomas Pressley’s classroom but were limited on space and time. Now, they are able to freely use the makerspace in Mountain Laurel Hall, room 214 and not worry about being kicked out because a class is in session.

Currently NVC’s makerspace is outfitted with a row of 3-D printers, Apple and Dell computers, two motion capture virtual reality spaces, a sound editing bay and tables to lay out equipment, robotics supplies and other hardware.

An NVC Innovation Grant of $2,500 jump started the idea into reality last fall. After receiving the grant, Thomas, Mark Jurena and Richard Crabb paid a visit to a local nonprofit called 10BitWorks Makerspace. Near downtown San Antonio, this membership-run space allows its members to come together in a space to do crafting, engineering, science, design, art, and advertising.

Richard said visiting 10BitWorks and researching other makerspaces helped them with organization of NVC’s new space and identifying items that were needed now. He said some items on the wish list include a laser-cutting printer, and more tables that can take a beating from cutting and drilling.

NVC’s STEAM Makerspace is open xxxand already has a part-time employee and work study student. Former NVC student Gonzalo “Zalo” Alvarado now works part time in the new space and already has become an expert of most of the equipment. He’s studying computer science at UTSA. Work study student Julia Allen has already learned how to make Pokemon chess pieces using the 3D printer and has a goal to make a matching chess board.

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