Maker Lab serving college and community to open on Saturday, Nov. 3
New lab in the Stew offers tools from laser cutters to lathes to routers to 3D printers
GRINNELL, Iowa — Members of the Grinnell and Grinnell College communities are invited to check out the new Maker Lab (MLab) on Saturday, Nov. 3.
The grand opening will run from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Stew, 927 Broad St., Grinnell. Attendees, who are welcome to drop in at any point during the opening, will receive a tour and see what can be done with equipment such as a router, lathe, laser cutter and 3D printer. Light refreshments will be served.
“Our new lab provides access to tools and opportunities to learn about design and fabrication while bringing diverse members of the college and community together for shared learning and creativity,” said Monty Roper, director of the Wilson Center and associate professor of anthropology at Grinnell College.
“This project supports the Wilson Center’s goals of supporting innovation and entrepreneurship through interdisciplinary experiential learning and problem solving,” Roper added. “More generally, project-based learning enhances the type of creativity, critical thinking and teamwork that is at the core of the liberal arts at Grinnell College.”
Erik Jarvis, who manages events and facilities for the Arts Council, is also enthusiastic about the new lab. “Whatever your idea, MLAb can help you make it a reality,” he said, “whether it requires a wood shop, electronics, 2D and 3D carving, 3D printing, a laser cutter or vinyl cutter, welding equipment, a metal shop or lathes.
“Getting the Maker Lab up and running enables us to achieve the Arts Council’s goal of having people go in and make stuff together,” Jarvis said. “One of the great things about it is the variety of equipment available, which people with one-off projects might not want to invest in on their own.”
Tom Lacina, arts director of the Arts Council, described MLab as a convenient downtown space that will promote educational and social interactions among Grinnell College students and local residents. “It offers a great opportunity to connect the college and the community while providing opportunities for people to learn, innovate and work together.”
This past summer the Wilson Center employed two third-year Grinnell College students — Jonathan Rebelsky of Grinnell who is majoring in music and chemistry, and Marli Remash of Seattle who is majoring in computer science. They helped create the MLab and its clean room, as well as a separate studio with a hidden outside patio that was designed to promote creativity and interaction among individuals and groups. The pair also helped order and install equipment and developed a welding area.
MLab is open free of charge to Grinnell College students and local students attending middle school, high school and Iowa Valley Community College. There is a fee structure for other members of the broader community as with other Arts Council programming. The council plans to offer monthly MLab memberships of $30 (a dollar a day) and annual memberships of $300 for adult area residents who want to use the lab.
When someone first visits the MLab, a trained staff member will extend a warm welcome and provide a brief safety orientation. The staff member also offers training on how to use certain tools, plus there will be training workshops for specific equipment. Returning members can check in seamlessly and get right to work.
Carlton Segbefia, a second-year student from Accra, Ghana, and a computer science major at Grinnell College, is one of six staff monitors working at the MLab. As part of his training, he and another student produced a watch that looks like an analog timekeeper on the outside but runs on internal electronic components.
“I had no experience,” Segbefia said, “but I’m glad I’ve learned to safely operate all kinds of equipment. Now I can teach people coming to the lab how to use our tools to create the projects they have envisioned.”
Beginning Nov. 4, the MLab will be open six days a week for a total of 25 hours during the following times:
- Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Mondays, 6 to 9 p.m.
- Tuesdays, 3 to 6 p.m.
- Wednesdays, 6 to 9 p.m.
- Thursdays, 3 to 6 p.m.
- Saturdays, 10 to 4:30 p.m.
To help sustain the MLab, the Wilson Center may delve into contracting and consulting work. The space will also be available for entrepreneurs to develop prototypes and proofs of concepts, Roper said. “I really hope,” he added, “that we have new businesses spin out of this space.”