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Library making room for creativity

10/12/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Imaginations are taking shape in the maker space in Forsyth Library at Fort Hays State University.

"We call it a maker space," said Paul Adams, director of the Science and Mathematics Education Institute and a professor of physics and education.

John Ross, Forsyth director, said the room tucked away in a corner of the lower level is a multi-purpose space.

The need for the space to create came to light when a group working with Adams last year on high-altitude balloons had no place in which to work.

Working on their own, not as a class, they were the motivation.

"That team is going to be coming down here," Adams said.

"It's all about ideas, and everyone has a little bit of an engineer in them," Ross said. "There may be some other idea somebody has, and they need a place to go."

The space already has been used for rocketry. Rocket project packets are available for a donation, or builders can bring their own supplies.

Besides individuals using the room, the space will be available to FHSU classes, Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science students, teacher workshops, summer camps, hobby groups and others in the community. Adams is working on plans for Saturday STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workshops for kids to be there later in the fall.

"Because we are the university, I work with some of our secondary pre-service teachers. (The workshop) would be for kids, but the opportunity to teach it would come for students at the university," Adams said.

It's community service with a focus on the FHSU students' skill sets.

"One of the key things about the maker space is we're opening all of these opportunities to the community," Ross said. "So if someone outside the university wants to learn about 3-D printing, they can come here, and do that. If they want to learn about robotics, they can do that as well."

With the 3-D printer in the room, imagination isn't just in someone's head, they "can fabricate and print it within 30 minutes or so," Adams said.

Some of the projects likely will require using hand tools, and safety will be an issue.

"Anybody that wants to use the space, we want to make sure you have the skills," Adams said.

Some FHSU graduate students are making videos about safely using hand tools as a class project.

Those wanting to work in the space and use tools first can watch the video. After taking a short test, they get a digital badge.

Besides some scheduled programs, it's also a place someone can come in if they want "to learn how to use an Arduino (microcontroller). Students here can show you how."

The multi-purpose space has been open Saturday and Sunday afternoons for a few weeks.

It's open by appointment the rest of the time, so users need to sign up at the library until more staff is added. Lockers soon will be available upstairs for those who want to keep some materials in the library.

Ross said it's a good use of library space because it gives students a connection "between what they're doing in the maker space, and their applied work and to all the resources in the library.

"As they do their research ... they can refer to all the information we have."

It provides a place to "invent, innovate, create whatever you're interested in," Adams said.

"This is going to be a very busy place," Ross said.