Stony Brook University is opening a makerspace. On October 28, students, faculty and staff were invited to explore Stony Brook’s Innovation Lab — a new workshop in Harriman Hall equipped with Google Glass, 3D printers, workbenches and tools students can use to build the next big thing.
The lab is one of hundreds of similar workshops popping up in universities and communities around the world. As the price of technology drops, more and more people are becoming interested in learning how to make the devices that surround them every day. Makerspaces provide the equipment and room for people interested in technology to collaborate, build and share knowledge.
The space is staffed by the Division of Information Technology’s Research Technologies group, led by David Ecker, which brought together all the technology required to get the lab off the ground. Ecker says information technology will play a key role in supporting innovation that will take place in the lab.
“The maker industry is growing, and the IT industry needs to be a part of it,” Ecker said.
Morgan Kelly, a student working in Research Technologies, has already used the technology in the lab to create something she has always wanted: an automatic dog feeder. One of the important resources the lab offers is free materials and components for students to use in their projects.
“A lot of the materials are very expensive,” Kelly said. “Especially if you don’t know what you’re going to be using in the end.” Having access to free materials removed a lot of the constraints Kelly said she would normally run into on a project like this.
Kelly demonstrated the dog feeder during the preview event, but she wants to take it even further, collaborating with other students to create an app that will allow for remote feeding. “I’m not a programmer, and I certainly don’t know how to code an app, so that’s one place where the innovation lab definitely helps,” Kelly said.
If she ever decides she wants to turn her project into a product, the lab can help her with that, too. The lab is part of the Innovation Center housed in the School of Business, which also supports the new entrepreneurship minor and an innovation lounge between Harriman Hall and the Physics Building. An important part of the program is connecting students who make things with business students, who can work with them to turn ideas into business ventures.
“The goal is to have a community of students, and mentors who work with students, to create new enterprises,” said Associate Provost for Integration of Research, Education and Professional Development Nancy Goroff.
Goroff is one of the administrators coordinating the development of the lab, which she said will grow to become a University-wide partnership, involving the College of Business, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and College of Arts and Sciences.
The idea for the innovation lab came about two years ago when the director of the Innovation Center, Gerrit Wolf, visited Yale and saw a similar lab in the lobby of the engineering building. He called the dean of the College of Business, Manuel London, as soon as he got back and said, “We’ve got to have an innovation lab.” A week later, they found two spaces in Harriman Hall that became the Innovation Lab and Innovation Lounge.
Students who are interested in using the lab can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about getting access and working with the equipment. The lab will have regular hours beginning with the Spring 2015 semester.
— Will Welch ’16