CS MakerSpace

CS MakerSpace

CS MakerSpace

There’s no shortage of things for students to look forward to in their return to Rowan this fall. One specific place where that rings true is in one of the latest additions to the Computer Science Department: the Makerspace. The Makerspace is an exciting new space for Rowan students that will be opening up for the first time this September. This article will provide a brief overview of the space, so you know exactly what to expect before you visit. The information in this article comes courtesy of the Makerspace’s student manager, Tyler Jones.

The Makerspace is a new room located on the third floor in Robinson Hall. The room will be open during the day from Monday to Friday, as long as a staff member is present to supervise. In this room, you’ll find all sorts of electronic devices to observe, explore, and experiment with. Computer Science students often find themselves working in a mostly digital space, but this room gives them the opportunity to get some hands-on experience with real machines. The three main devices you’ll find here are a 3D printer, a 3D scanner, and a robot arm.

Now, the words “robot arm” probably caught your eye, so how about we start there? Situated in the back of the room is a small mechanical arm with a pincer-like hand. This arm can pivot, move up and down, and grab things. It’s a simple device, but a rather entertaining one once you start messing around with it. The Makerspace provides a controller for operating the robot arm, but the arm can also be controlled via a smartphone app. At present, there is only one robot arm in the Makerspace, but Tyler has stated that they are planning to bring in more at some point.

Of course, the robot arm is far from the only thing the Makerspace has to offer. As stated before, there is also a 3D printer and 3D scanner. Using the 3D printer, you can create all kinds of different 3D objects. You could make simple things like bowls or pencil holders, or you could make more intricate, creative designs. A staff member will always be there to supervise and ensure nobody wastes printing material, but otherwise the only real limit is your imagination. There will also be some computers in the room which you can use to design objects to be printed. As for the 3D scanner, you can use that to scan 3D models of real world objects into the computer. To do this, you simply place an object on the scanner’s platform, and the platform will rotate while a camera scans the object in question. Using the data from that scan, the 3D scanner then creates a virtual 3D model of the object.

 

scanner

That is a cursory description of all the devices currently in the room. Of course, as mentioned before, a staff member will always be present in the room, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s anything else about the devices you want to know. The staff members aren’t just there as supervisors. They’re there to guide you and help you learn how to use the equipment. Afterall, the Makerspace is fun, but it’s also meant to be a valuable learning experience.

In addition, there are even more devices planned for the room beyond those listed above. The most notable plan at the moment is for Raspberry Pi computers. Through the use of these unique computers, the Makerspace will introduce even more projects for students to engage with. For example, one of the sample projects currently planned to introduce students to the Raspberry Pis will integrate programmable LED lights. Students will be able to program these lights as they please and observe the results of their work in real time.

Overall, the Makerspace is an exciting new experience for all the students and staff involved in providing this new space for Rowan students to enjoy. Here’s what one of our faculty members, Dr. Jennifer Kay, had to say about the Makerspace: “I’m so excited about the new Computer Science Makerspace! Traditionally our students spend most of their time programming in a virtual space – but now they have a chance to explore, experiment, and tinker in a different way. I find that working with a physical robot not only helps me discover issues that I missed when working in simulation, but also leads to new ways of thinking and problem solving that may not have been possible without the change in environment. I’m really looking forward to seeing what CS students do with the Makerspace as well as how it might get them thinking in different ways about their software projects.”

So that’s the Makerspace in a nutshell. One last thing worth noting is that, even though it’s primarily catered to CS majors, the Makerspace is open to anyone. As student manager Tyler Jones explained, “It’s for everyone, honestly. Even if you’re not in any [scientific] majors, if you have a small interest in robotics, engineering, coding or the like, you could come here and learn.” The Makerspace is built to be a welcoming environment for anyone who shows interest in what it has to offer. So, on behalf of everyone at the Computer Science Makerspace, we are excited to finally open up this new space, and we hope to see you there!