UAB students named University Innovation Fellows, launch Makerspace

Fellows hope to help make UAB a destination school for student entrepreneurs who value an atmosphere of innovation.
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makerspace kidsStudents work in the Makerspace in Sterne Library.

Four University of Alabama at Birmingham undergraduate students selected University Innovation Fellows by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation have launched a Makerspace on campus where students, staff and faculty can create and collaborate with one another.

A ribbon-cutting event for the space and pinning of the fellows will be held at noon Tuesday, Feb. 23, in UAB’s Sterne Library. Afterward, students will present a Maker Day showcase highlighting the technology and services available.

The University Innovation Fellows program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. Fellows work to ensure their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future and make a positive impact on the world.

Rohit Borah, Murray Ladner, Forrest Satterfield and John Shelley will represent UAB as four members of the nation’s 150 University Innovation Fellows program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell. UAB is one of 52 universities — and the only in Alabama — to have students selected for the program.

UAB’s fellows come from a variety of disciplines. Borah, a student in the UAB Honors College, is pursuing a political  science major and economics minor while concurrently enrolled in the UAB School of Public Health’s fast-track Master of Public Health program. Ladner is a sophomore in the UAB Honors College majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in military sciences. Satterfield is a junior biomedical engineering major and entrepreneurship minor. Shelley, also a UAB Honors College student, is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying for an individually designed major in the social determinants of health, a major that spans economics to public health and beyond.

The UAB students went through a rigorous application process to be selected for the fellows program. With support from UAB, the students have completed six weeks of online training and will travel to the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup in Silicon Valley in March.

Throughout the year, they will participate in events and conferences across the country that provide opportunities to learn from one another and from mentors and leaders in academia and industry.

As part of the application process, the students outlined their plans to make a change at UAB. This included plans to work with student leadership and the administration to think through the process of incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship into the core curriculum of UAB to improve UAB’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Borah, Satterfield, Shelley and Ladner, who have begun to tackle that plan through collaboration and idea-sharing with the other program fellows, want to enable UAB students to get involved and help propel that mission after the program’s completion.

makerspace studentsMakerspace student workers (from left) Kane Agan, Jeni Weber, Johnathon Palomarez, Forrest Satterfield, Josh Bowman, AJ Matta and Casey Eubanks“We believe that UAB is already at the center of innovation in Birmingham, from the 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.”

With that goal, the guidance of faculty and the help of student volunteers, the four fellows created Makerspace, a student-run service center, to provide technology and direction that will enable students, staff and faculty to pursue innovation. The space, which is located on the main level of Sterne Library, is home to five printers providing 3-D modeling and printing services. The team of volunteers has helped students from UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences and schools of Engineering and Business complete more than 100 orders. Each order costs approximately $2.

The team is staffing the space 58 hours a week — 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday.

“We have seen tremendous interest in how the space can be used already,” said Molly Wasko, Ph.D., a professor in the Collat School of Business and faculty adviser 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.”

As the Makerspace takes on more projects, the fellows hope to expand its infrastructure to offer additional technologies such as Arduino™ kits, user-friendly electronics-creation platforms, and littleBits™ kits, invention toolboxes.

Those interested in helping the Makerspace can email makerspaceuab@gmail.com.

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