Equipment for fabrication, 2d/3d design, and virtual reality technologies are available for students to use daily at the Makerspace located in the library. Photo by Anna Meassick.

The University of Rhode Island has a free-to-use makerspace located in the library, which has high-tech equipment such as 3D printers and virtual reality.

The makerspace is located on the first floor of the Library in Room 165 and can be used by students as well as faculty for academic or creative purposes.

This semester, the makerspace hours have changed from those on the website. They are now open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Gina Vincent, a junior marine affairs major with a minor in geological oceanography, started working at the makerspace her freshman year. Vincent found out about the makerspace while taking an art class at URI.

“One of the girls in the class mentioned there was a 3D printing lab like the second week of school so I came to check it out,” said Vincent. “ I spent so much time here the supervisor who ran it asked me to work here because I was printing so many things and getting really used to not only the printers themselves, but the software.”

Vincent said the makerspace is a relatively new addition to URI, opening within the past five years. The space is funded through grants and houses a wide variety of equipment.

The work space has five different types of 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, a Computer Numerical Control Machine (CNC) which has the ability to cut through soft metals, wood, and plastic, a laser cutter and two types of virtual reality which are powered through the companies Steam and Oculus.

The makerspace proves useful to multiple majors on campus.

“A lot of engineers do their capstone’s here,” Vincent said. “I’ve seen many different seniors coming with many different types of projects. We had one boy 3D print an airplane wing and test different types of wing tips to reduce drag and we’ve had a couple of other engineers do prosthetic limbs and testing different types of designs to see which one works better.”

The makerspace is also common among art majors, according to Vincent.

“We also have a lot of art students who have also come in here,” Vincent said. “They primarily use the vinyl cutter for stickers and things like that. We’ve had a couple of woodshop people or older students who have had a background in construction come use the CNC machine, but we’ve also had engineers also use the CNC machine.”

Some teachers use the makespace to get creative with their assignments.

“A lot of students really appreciate being able to come here and create something that’s useful for their major,” said Vincent. “We’ve had engineering classes but we’ve also had business classes come here and have to create something and then work on how you would market that, so it really has a wider range of uses for multiple majors.”

Students can still utilize the makerspace even if it does not apply to their major, or even a class.

“I have used it in personal agendas,” Vincent commented, “I’ve made little trinkets for my backpack, or little things at home, I’ve helped friends make things. I’ve cut stickers for events on campus and for other types of events in the past.”

Vincent stressed the openness of the makerspace and its overall objective.

“Any student, faculty member, friends of students can use this,” she said. “I’ve had out-of-state friends come visit me and use the space. It’s free. It’s really versatile. Like we have some students buy their own PLA, which is the type of plastic you put into 3D printers. They can buy their own colors. They can come put them in, so we really encourage user ability and creativity.”

URI has tried to make using the equipment as simple as possible. People can visit their URI website and click the link to their Wikipedia page. The page describes every item in the makerspace that students can use along with information, instructions, and tips. Vincent also said that there is always at least one employee in the makerspace to answer any questions, consider feedback or help with the use of any equipment.  

Krista Michienzi, a freshman at URI majoring in chemistry and forensic chemistry, found out about the makerspace through Vincent, who is her teammate on the Rugby team. Michienzi does not use the makerspace for academic or creative purposes. Rather, she enjoys using it for the company and the ability to have fun.

“The VR is cool,” Michienzi said, “It’s interesting and kind of scary. There are some scary games on there, like you go in and it’ll just get pitch black and it’s loud… and you actually don’t remember where you are for a few minutes while you’re in there.”

Students can create their own artistic worlds with the VR equipment as well that others are welcome to explore. There is even a detailed virtual reality of the fictional town of Bikini Bottom from the popular TV show Spongebob.

Vincent stressed how the makerspace is not just a place for creating something new, but meeting new people as well.

“I think one important thing is that this isn’t just a space for you to use the 3D printers or the vinyl machine or any other type of machine we have in here, feel free to sit down,” Vincent said. “You will meet other people printing things. So you might have a nice conversation might meet someone in your major. You didn’t previously know.”

Vincent said anybody who is interested in using the Makerspace should come to the library to both see it for themselves as well as potentially meet others interested in it.

“I’ve seen people across several Majors doing different things say ‘hey, what are you doing in there?’and start mingling,” Vincent said. “So, it’s really interesting.”