On Feb. 22, the Innovation Lab officially opened its doors within the Seely-Mudd Library. The lab had previously been open since last semester near the end of October, but they weren’t ready to announce it to the public.
“When we announced it, we knew we would get more students. We had to be ready for it,” said Sarah Noah, the director of Instructional Technology and Web Development and one of the overseers of the Innovation Lab.
Located near the Mudd Entrance of the library, the laboratory has glass walls which allow library visitors to see the lab in use.
“When you enter the Mudd Center from outside, directly across there’s this big open glass room with these nice sliding big glass doors,” said Jeremy Klooster, Ann Arbor first-year and a student employee who has been working in the Innovation Lab since October of last year.
The idea started six years ago with the first 3D printer in the Ferguson computer lab. Over time, more printers were acquired. By 2019, three printers were available for the college to use.
Student interest grew for the printers. Those tasked with supervising the printers knew that there would be a need for more machines and a dedicated space eventually.
The library was chosen to be the future home of the Innovation Lab due to the constant presence of students. When renovations were being done in the Mudd portion of the library, a space was reserved to serve as the new home for the various assortment of equipment that the Innovation Lab would house.
Besides the seven plastic 3D printers, the Innovation Lab also has an SLA Resin Printer, which produces cured resin.
The Resin Printer uses a different material than the standard plastic 3D printer, using a liquid that results in a product composed of higher-quality material. This comes out to 20 cents per milliliter. There is also a 3D scanner that can scan anything and then produce a print of the scanned object.
There is currently one Virtual Reality (VR) headset, an HTC Vive, available for use. On it, there is a variety of experiences available.
According to Noah, a French class made use of the headsets to virtually roam the Palace of Versailles. Students have also used the headset to play Beatsaber, a game where you dual-wield swords to the beat of a song.
According to Noah, the space is open to all and equipment is available in the Innovation Lab for any student to make use of.
“My favorite phrase is ‘creative chaos’ or ‘controlled chaos’,” said Noah. “Which is the idea of like, yes we’ve got tools sitting out, we’ve got paints everywhere, we’ve got brushes on the tables. It’s the idea that you could come in and you could be creative and a little bit messy in this space, and it’s okay.”
Klooster also believes the space encourages creativity.
“Whenever I’m in there, I feel creative,” Klooster said. “I feel like there’s just so much art stuff going on. With 3D printing and VR, anything is possible. You can really shape it to be whatever you want it to be.”
When discussing the lab with faculty, Noah emphasized the importance of engaging the students.
“The thing I hate most is when you use technology in a classroom just for the sake of using technology,” she said. “There should be a value add, there should be a benefit for using that technology in learning,”
The Innovation Lab is open for walk-ins. Additionally, there is a QR code available to schedule a visit at a later date.
“Come down to the lab and try it. Poke your head in, say hi, try and get yourself used to the equipment. Try VR, it’s a lot of fun and you won’t regret it,” said Klooster.