Creation station: UAB’s new MakerSpace powers campus innovators

Creation station: UAB’s new MakerSpace powers campus innovators

March 03, 2016
By Matt Windsor
The tech-packed location in Sterne Library aims to be a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship on campus.

Students, faculty and staff with big ideas have a new outlet at the university’s student-run MakerSpace in Sterne Library. The tech-packed operation, spearheaded by a group of undergraduate entrepreneurs, officially opened on Tuesday, Feb. 23 in a highly trafficked location on the library’s main level. It currently offers five 3-D printers and two built-in computer 3-D scanners. Students can draw on a healthy collection of prototyping kits from Arduino and other maker manufacturers as well.

mix makerspace fellowsFaculty advisors Molly Wasko and Alan Eberhardt with University Innovation Fellows (left to right) Murray Ladner, Rohit Borah, Forrest Satterfield and John Shelley.

Four UAB undergraduates were instrumental in turning the space into reality, said Molly Wasko, Ph.D., a professor in the UAB Collat School of Business. Earlier this year, Rohit Borah, Murray Ladner, Forrest Satterfield and John Shelley were selected as University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation. They join 146 other fellows from 52 universities in the program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell. UAB is the only university in Alabama to have students selected for the program. In March, Borah, Ladner, Satterfield and Shelley will travel to the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup in Silicon Valley.

mix 3d scannerMakerSpace student worker Kane Agan demonstrates one of the 3-D scanners.

University Innovation Fellows are empowered to help their peers with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to succeed in 21st century careers. The MakerSpace is an important step in expanding UAB’s “entrepreneurial ecosystem” and focus on innovation, says Borah, a political science major and economics minor who is part of the UAB Honors College and the UAB School of Public Health’s fast-track Master of Public Health program.

“We believe that UAB is already at the center of innovation in Birmingham, from the [Bill L. Harbert] Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to the Innovation Depot,” Borah said. “Through this effort, we hope to make UAB a destination school for students who value an atmosphere of innovation. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ll come to UAB to make that happen.”

Satterfield, a biomedical engineering major and entrepreneurship minor, has already started a company at UAB’s Innovation Lab at Innovation Depot. “The goal of the MakerSpace is to catalyze cross-disciplinary collaboration,” he said at the opening. “This is a place where anyone can come and quickly and effectively prototype ideas.”

mix forrest satterfieldForrest Satterfield readies a model of a brain for printing.

“The entrepreneurial mindset is all about creative thinking, even if you have no plans to start your own business,” said Shelley. He falls into that camp — he designed his own major focused on social determinants of health, and intends to go to medical school. “It’s a matter of being open to new ideas and the potential for change.”

mix maker day

The space has already generated “tremendous interest,” said Wasko, who is a faculty advisor for the fellows. “We’re hoping momentum continues to grow and that we will be able to do more and more as time goes on. The sky’s the limit.”

"This shows what our students can do when we step out of the way," said Alan Eberhardt, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and an advisor for the fellows. "This space is a testament to their vision and innovation.”

The UAB MakerSpace is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Anyone who wants to place a custom order to be created on the 3-D printers can visit www.facebook.com/UABmakerspace/. The average price to print is $6.40, and is based on the amount to be printed, in grams.