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Miami’s hidden gem: the Makerspace

The Makerspace, located on the third floor of King Library, is a hub for all things creativity.
The Makerspace, located on the third floor of King Library, is a hub for all things creativity.

Tucked away in a corner on the third floor of King Library, a large room filled to the brim with creative stations sits, waiting to be used.

The dulcet chattering of shiny sewing machines and the electronic whirring of 3-D printers stretch out into the otherwise silent hallway; vinyl cutters and a brand new laser cutter dream of their next project, and a virtual reality studio waits patiently to bring others’ dreams to life.

This is the Makerspace.

A haven for all who are crafty and creative, the Makerspace opened in 2019 and quickly established itself as Miami’s premier center for step-by-step student craftsmanship. 

Visitors to this open space in King Library don’t need to know how to use anything offered there — after all, staff members are always on hand to help with any and all of the many machines.

The Makerspace boasts 3-D printers, sewing and embroidery machines, a sublimation printer, button makers, vinyl cutters, laptops, 360 cameras, a heat press, a laser cutter and engraving machine, a VR studio and an AV studio, just to name a few. 

All of these are free for students after signing a waiver at the Makerspace front desk. Students then make an appointment online to book a piece of equipment.

First-year university studies major William Agostinelli booked the laser cutter to create a project for his UNV 101 class — a wooden image of Swoop the RedHawk’s head, complete with adjectives describing himself on the back. He found out about the Makerspace through a class.

“My teacher told me about it and then we came to visit,” said Agostinelli. “Honestly, it’s pretty cool because you can come whenever you want and make whatever you want.”

And all for completely free. The word “free” usually brings in college students by the flock, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a bit of a dent in the Makerspace’s clientele. 

Despite this, the Makerspace staff are beginning to build business back up.

Creation and Innovation Services Librarian Sarah Nagle is the Makerspace’s outreach librarian, the class and faculty liaison for the Makerspace and the person who aids students in trying something new.

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“I love the students that come in here and I love seeing them get excited about the machinery,” she said. “I think it can be this awesome space where students can get away from things, have fun, get creative and meet other people.”

The Makerspace also holds multiple events each year for creative students to meet one another and enjoy crafting. 

During these events, attendees have the opportunity to make buttons and stickers, use any Makerspace machinery, craft blackout poetry and even create optical illusions called “thaumatropes” in which two images are spun together to appear to be the same picture.

“I love the events because we’ll have, like, sixty students in here,” Nagle said. “We have a variety of different activities for them, and the atmosphere is really fun, collaborative, laid-back and creative.”

Lori Chapin, Innovation Spaces Manager, has been with the Makerspace since before it opened, and has worked with the university library system since 2008. Her favorite part of the Makerspace is the new laser cutter and engraver, but she also enjoys the vinyl cutters.

“I love making stickers, t-shirts and tote bags,” Chapin said. “People get so excited when they see their stuff come out on a t-shirt, and it’s really rewarding to see people so happy.”

Chapin also enjoys the audiovisual (AV) studio, which she calls “underutilized;” it can be used to record podcasts, film videos and more. 

Students who book the room have full access to cameras, backdrops, teleprompters and lighting options, but a quick look at the reservations website only shows a few 2-hour slots reserved for the coming week.

The other studio that the Makerspace has to offer is the virtual reality (VR) studio. Though online reservations are currently unavailable, Chapin hopes to generate campus outreach and help students experience VR for the first time.

“There’s something here for everyone,” Chapin said. “It is wonderful for classwork, there’s options to do just about anything and the experiential learning is so rewarding. We want you here. We want you to try it.”

The next Makerspace event is coming up soon. On Oct. 22, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., spooky season will take over during “Creepy Crawly Crafts,” which is returning from its popular 2019 debut

There is no better place to try thinking creatively than the Makerspace!