Round Up Piece: Makerspaces

MakerState: How Regional Makerspaces Set the Scene for Student Success in 2023

For students looking to forge a solid foundation in a hands-on career, the most vital skills aren’t so much learned as lived

But getting authentic, hands-on experience isn’t as simple as one might think. Hence the need for  makerspaces — comprehensive on-campus resources that provide students with an environment to connect, collaborate, and turn their creative passions into career pursuits. 

From College of the Redwoods’ ‘Fab Lab’ to American River College’s Design Hub, more and more colleges are harnessing the power of the dynamic, hands-on learning spaces. Across the North and Far North, Strong Workforce-funded makerspaces and labs allow students to practice essential skills for their industries without the need to leave campus. 

As 2023 winds down, we highlight some of the makerspaces that helped students garner confidence right alongside experience in their chosen career field. From engineering and welding, to manufacturing and fiber arts — makerspaces ensure that students have the resources to sharpen their skills in any hands-on industry.  

CNC ‘Magic’ Factory: SCC Makerspace Offers Unprecedented Access

From the hum of a CNC lathe to the lingering smell of the metal fiber laser, students harbor a home away from home in the busy environment of Sacramento City College’s Makerspace. 

“We’re the largest and most accessible makerspace in the Sacramento region,” says Makerspace Faculty Project Director Tom Cappelletti. “By far, ours has the largest complement of staff, training, and equipment.”  

And that’s a fact: In 2021, the SCC Makerspace was named one of the top 200 maker schools in the world by Newsweek and Make.

After first opening the doors in 2018, the space briefly closed during 2020 due to restrictions brought on by the global pandemic. This year, the space made its long-awaited return, re-launching bigger and better than ever thanks to support from the Strong Workforce Program (SWP).

The new and improved makerspace boasts a three-times-larger lab, along with updated industry-grade equipment including CNC lathes, mills, a metal fiber laser, and sublimation printers that produce designs on metal, fabric, and more. 

“Access to the makerspace was an opportunity to investigate, in an informal and structured way, what engineering is to me, personally,” reflects SCC alum Erin McDowell, a current Junior Manufacturing Engineer at Ascentec Engineering. 

Strong Workforce funds also support the expansion of the makerspace’s electronics equipment, giving Computer Information Science students an opportunity to collaborate with advanced manufacturing students in the space. 

“There is a magic that happens when you get a group of creative people together in the same space,” says JamesTown, Computer Information Science Professor and Lab Coordinator. “I know that SCC wouldn’t be the same without the makerspace.” 

Here Be Dragons: CR’s ‘Fab Lab’ provides inspiration in the Far North 

From fabricating a fire-breathing dragon for Burning Man, to collaborating alongside physicists and nuclear engineers in the lab, College of the Redwoods grad Amanda Cuttler made the most of her time in College of the Redwoods’ unique makerspace.

Cutter has since landed a high-powered gig as a mechanical technician at the famous Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but she still makes time to support her alma mater. The proud Corsair regularly volunteers at the “Women in Welding” events in CR’s new Fabrication Lab – or ‘Fab Lab’ – which was still in development while Cutter was a student herself. 

“College of the Redwoods gave me the tools, skills, and confidence to be where I am now, to push myself, and to persist,” Cutter reflects.

“What they’ve done is extraordinary. The new lab puts a smile on my face because it shows students the possibilities of what they can do on a larger scale.”  

The Strong Workforce-funded Fab Lab includes 6,000 square feet of wide-open space for students to explore their welding and fabrication skills. The funds also allowed for industry-standard storage units that keep material from rusting in the coastal climate, saving time and effort for students storing their materials and allowing them to focus on creating dynamic projects. 

With access to state-of-the-art sheet metal benders, welders, fume extractors, and more, plus one-of-kind opportunities like CR’s Women in Welding event, it’s not easy to leave the Fab Lab without learning a new skill or two. 

“It was wonderful to show them: ‘Hey, hold your torch like this,’ just like [my instructor] taught me,” beams Cutter. “Seeing them do it successfully was one of the best feelings ever.” 

A Hub for Hands-On: American River College offers a supportive space to create

If you’re an American River College student headed for a high-tech career, you’ve heard about “The Hub.”

The Design Hub is ARC’s home for hands-on, offering Design and Engineering Technology students a dedicated space that doubles as an on-campus internship factory. Students are invited to access industry-standard resources as they boost their resumes with industrial design internships delivered directly from the Sacramento campus. The program even offers paid Internships, alleviating pressure for students who would otherwise need to work other jobs. 

The ARC Design Hub is more than just convenient… it’s connected, providing high-tech equipment to keep students, sometimes literally, on the cutting edge. Resources include laser engravers, 3D printers, and access to one-on-one lab assistance. 

The space encourages collaboration with internships across various programs cross campus, including design technology, computer programming, arts, engineering, and more. “We focused on projects that had at least two or three different disciplines, so that the interns had to work together,” explains Randall Schuster, Professor of Design Technology at ARC. 

The Hub has helped many ARC students get to the next level, including Matt Crow, who supplemented his skills with Hub-supported internship projects. 

“The ARC Design Hub allowed me to accelerate my professional development without adding any significant stress on top of my class load,” says the ARC alum. “As an intern in the ARC Design Hub, I applied what I learned in my ARC classes to real-world projects used by the ARC faculty.”

Among Crow’s achievements in the Hub was the design of a Wayfinding system for the college. He also employed his dynamic programming skills to improve the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Linguistics Analysis Tool on the ARC website. Now, Crow proudly harnesses the skills he established at the Design Hub by applying them in his career as an Information Technology Assistant for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. 

“It gave me the space to grow quickly and confidently,” he reflects.

 Skills by the Stacks: Leveled-up WCC library includes versatile makerspace

The Woodland Community College library contains much more than just books. For students focusing on fast, flexible careers skills, it just might hold the key to the future.

 A flashpoint for creativity to students and the community alike, the Woodland Community College Makerspace offers an innovative oasis right within the library, a central hub that’s easily accessible for anyone on campus. From 3D printers to virtual reality equipment, sewing machines, musical instruments, and other unique resources, WCC’s Makerspace has everything students crave to get creative.

“We’ll do workshops, we’ll do one-on-ones. We’ll do whatever works for students,” says WCC librarian Dena Martin. “We’re very flexible because we just want people coming in and having fun and using it.” 

The makerspace isn’t just for the students. Community members are welcome to attend workshops, which focus on fiber arts like knitting, sewing, embroidery, and additional crafty projects like sticker- and button-making and scrapbooking. Other unique assets of the Makerspace include a historical clothing collection and virtual reality equipment. 

Meanwhile, instructors are taking advantage of the space’s resources as well. Take Manuel Fernando Rios, instructor in WCC’s Fine Arts program, who invited his classes to the library’s makerspace to create block prints for rubber stamps. 

“[The makerspace] allowed my class to take a break from the repetitive actions of the semester,” says Rios. “Giving students a creative outlet to unwind and problem solve through the Arts, I believe, is essential for a healthy and nurturing institution.”

The makerspace allows students to sharpen their hard and soft skill sets to add to their resumes. Unique skills include learning how to use and operate a 3D printer, practicing project management, and learning career-relevant software. 

“It really does enhance the experience here at the college, just by having those things available for them to use,” notes adjunct librarian Jennifer Morrissey. “It enhances the classes that we have … it definitely enhances the campus.” 

December 2023