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Learning in three dimensions

Learning in three dimensions… and virtual reality: the Anderson University Makerspace is taking lab learning into the 21st century

The days of learning only by listening to long lectures are over.

Anderson University, through the Center for Innovation and Digital Learning and its Makerspace lab, is leading the way in this higher education revolution by offering students the opportunity to supplement classroom learning with high-tech tools.

Among them is the AU Makerspace, a hub for students and faculty to experiment, build and learn through machines, technology and good old-fashioned ingenuity.

“Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical things. These things are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our souls,” wrote Mark Hatch in The Maker Movement Manifesto.

Incorporating a makerspace adds a dimension to learning, enhancing opportunities for students and faculty in a wide range of academic disciplines. Because of the Makerspace, they can go beyond reading about theories and writing reports to actually creating and experiencing tangible things.

Enhancing learning by doing

An engineering student can design scale models or develop
a prototype of a part or other objects using 3D printing technology on one of several printers housed at AU Makerspace. A communications student produces a video in the cyclorama, a curved green screen where a virtual set or other background can be digitally placed in a video production. An education student can produce engaging instructional videos with
a lightboard presentation tool, writing seemingly in the air in front of them with a digital marker while explaining a concept.

Pre-med students can immerse themselves into a 3D virtual reality (VR) exploration of the human body. A nursing student can practice treating a patient using VR or augmented reality, where digital images overlay actual images in space.

‘Making’ a better quality of life

Abigail Drummond, a graduate of Anderson University College of Health Professions, trains her colleagues on 3D scanning and printing technology at Floyd Brace Co. in their Lexington, S.C., location. Her company produces orthotic insoles as well as prosthetics.

Drummond draws on knowledge she gained as a student using the AU Makerspace for a Kinesiology project. For her project, Drummond used a 3D scanner to make foot impressions from various subjects, then uploaded the scan to computer software and ultimately created orthotic insoles on a 3D printer.

“No one had ever tried to print custom foot orthotics there before. There was not a step-by-step rule book. There was no way to tell if I did the process correctly until the final product either came out well or it did not. It did not come out well many times,” Drummond said. “This is much more like the real world than any other course or experience I had in college. I wish there were more opportunities for college students to think outside of the box and imagine jobs that may not already exist. AU Makerspace forced me to think outside of the box. I will not forget that lesson.”

And while equipment in the AU Makerspace is utilized much of the time for class projects, students, faculty or staff can also use the Makerspace to bring their ideas to life.

A closer look at the Anderson University Makerspace

3D printers

Unlike conventional computer printers, 3D printers fabricate items in three dimensions (3D), for prototyping or production of final parts and various items. Instead of ink, 3D printers use a filament (usually a kind of plastic) fed into the printer from reels. Unlike sculpture or milling where material is subtracted, 3D “printed” objects are created by adding material a layer at a time. Fabrication of prototypes or final products can include tools, parts, scale models, toys and/or novelty items.

The AU Makerspace has two smaller printers (Ultimaker 2 extended, Ultimaker 3 extended) and one larger printer (Modix Big 60).

Another type of 3D printer is the Form 2, which forms items using a plastic resin that hardens when hit by a laser. The laser can produce finer details.

Glowforge – Laser Cutter

A laser makes precise cuts in materials sheets such as wood up to a half-inch thickness or etches designs into metal.

Zing Orbit – Die Cutter/CNC Drag Knife

This device makes precise cuts of various kinds of materials, including vinyl, cardstock, chipboard, plastic and fabric.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) headsets do more than offer immersive experiences for gamers. For example, a nursing student can explore the inside of the human body as they are learning how to treat patients. Oculus Rift VR headsets are available from the Makerspace.

Structure Sensor (iPad 3d Scanner)

Combined with an iPad, Structure Sensor scans objects and spaces in three dimensions, providing needed input for 3D designing, printing, robotics, recognition or virtual reality (VR) applications. They also add augmented reality to an iPad, superimposing digital content over real-life scenes.

Media Studio

There is a media studio with a built-in cyclorama (green screen for electronic set backgrounds). The studio also contains a podcast booth. For outside projects, equipment can be checked out by students, faculty and staff.

Lightboard Presentation Tool

Students write on a transparent surface using a special marker to make their presentations “float” in front of them as they make a video on their iPad of their presentations. (Writing in the video is flipped during post-production.)

Brother VX-1120 Sewing Machine

Admittedly this is older tech, but it’s a versatile machine for sewing fabrics.

  • Johnston 104 (College of Education)

  • Watkins002 (College of Arts & Sciences)

  • One Button Studio (Thrift Library)

  • AU Makerspace