Guitars and 3D models aren’t the only things being crafted by students Micah Maben ’21, Jessica Lopez ’21, and Ken Ruto ’20 in the VCAM Makerspace. Alongside Maker Arts Technician and Coordinator Kent Watson, the students are helping to shape the purpose of the Makerspace itself—what it means and how it functions as a creative space on campus. After sitting down with Maben, Lopez, Ruto, and Watson, I learned more about their work and how the Makerspace fits into the Haverford mosaic.
The Makerspace debuted alongside VCAM, the shiny new addition to Haverford whose grand opening I missed by a semester. The building itself, previously Ryan Gym, was transformed last year into a creative hub, promoting student art and visual media—a transformation spearheaded by the Hurford Center and coinciding with the launching of a Visual Studies minor. As a student worker for the humanities center, VCAM has become a new office—an upgrade from the claustrophobic nook inside Stokes Hall where I used to work.
But for students like Maben, Lopez, and Ruto, VCAM and the Makerspace have been a creative springboard for their artistic and extracurricular goals. The space itself features a laser cutter, a Computer Numerical Control router (useful for precisely cutting wood, foam, steel, and other materials), several iMacs with 3D modeling software, and other tools useful for crafting. That’s not to mention the large crafting table where everyone gets the chance to do hands-on work. A physical computing class is one among many that also make use of the space, but students are allowed to use the space for their own projects too.
Maben utilizes the technology available in the Makerspace for a guitar making project they’ve been working on since before coming to Haverford.
“I came into working here with little to no 3D design or Computer Aided Design (CAD) experience, mostly coming from a sculpture background,” Maben says. Through the process of using the space to tear down and recreate guitars, the enthusiastic first-year has learned the ins-and-outs of the Makerspace. It makes sense, then, that they’re also one of the resource people designated to help students planning to make use of the space.
“To be given the tools and the kind of patience and process to build a real guitar and to explore the space and ideas of making was an introduction for me into the Makerspace and into a process I’ve never really been intimate with before.”
For Ruto, the Makerspace has provided a chance to build on a project he and his brother have been working on regarding water meters. Ruto is making casings for the small water meters using 3D modeling software.
“The project aims to provide real-time consumption data to water facilities and the government to help them deliver services to people and cut down on losses,” Ruto says. Along with fulfilling artistic aspirations, the Makerspace is also proving to be a useful resource for philanthropic work.
All in all, the Makerspace seems to work best when bringing together a wide array of skills, interests, and disciplines in the creative process. For Lopez, the space is a chance to broaden her social media and publicity skills, garnering experience in graphic design and documenting the “making” processes. Alongside designing posters for the events happening in the space, Lopez has photographed for Maben’s guitar project, assembling a small exhibit of their project in one of the Createspaces, small galleries also located in VCAM.
“This guitar making process was really cool, and I was so happy to be included because Micah is also pretty cool,” Lopez says. “I make sure everyone sees the work of the creators in the Makerspace.”
Watson has been excited about the imaginative possibilities the Makerspace “cadets” inspire. Maben, Lopez, and Ruto are only a few of the trailblazers who are helping the technician shape what defines the Makerspace.
“All of the students are helping me figure out their roles within this space, as we figure out the most creative and interesting ways to use it,” Watson says. “This space is at its best when it’s being combined with traditional skills, incorporating pre-existing ideas and seeing how we can remix them.”
It seems like the VCAM Makerspace is headed for an exciting future, one in which student creators are happy to have a hand in shaping.
Open studio time for the Makerspace is Monday from 1 to 5pm.
Andrew Nguyen ’19 is assistant editor for the Decentered blog, earning a degree in English with a minor in dance. He also coordinates Crosslisted, the Hurford Center discussion series around the work of students, faculty, and staff.
Edited by Anna Mehta ’18, English Major, Auburn, Alabama