Grand Opening: The MakerLab – Ben Pitt

Champlain College’s new MakerLab is nothing short of sci fi. Housed in the Emergent Media Center (EMC) on the college’s lakeside campus, the MakerLab had its grand opening last Friday, October 3. I was in attendance and I got to see all of Champlain’s new toys, all of which are available to Champlain students free of charge.

My colleague and I arrived at about three thirty and the place was already bustling with students and faculty eager to show off this amazing new place. Everyone around was grinning from ear-to-ear and showing people to the digital exhibits that were set up. There was also professionally catered food, complete with tuxedoed wait-staff making their way around with hors d’oeuvres, which is a college student’s Shangri-La.

But my partner and I went passed all of this, bypassing through all of the initial mingling. We wanted to get to the heart of the MakerLab: the machines. We were not disappointed in what we found. The theme of the event was create, something every tool and machine in the MakerLab is dedicated to doing. There was a whole tool chest’s worth of wood burning tools, plus a digital laser cutter as well. My favorite piece of equipment, though, was the 3D printer. Sadly, the machine wasn’t running during the event, but there were several pieces set on a table that had been created using the printer. It was amazing to be able to hold something in your hands that was designed digitally and then printed. Nothing I’ve ever sent to a standard printer has ever been that cool.

The MakerLab also has a heavy focus on digital creations, video games especially, many of which were on demonstration. The one I got my hands on actually used a teddy bear as a controller. The player made basic motions that a child might do with their own teddy to move the character on the screen around the level.

It’s so nice to see a place on the campus that is specifically there for the purpose of creating things. There are a lot of artists here at Champlain, and the MakerLab is proof that the college really does appreciate us. No matter what your medium, if you’re an artist at Champlain College, you should check out the MakerLab. I’ve never heard of anything this amazing being housed on a college campus before, especially at a school the size of Champlain and especially having it open to all students, not just a select few in specific majors.

Around four o’clock there were a few speeches from the faculty, students, and sponsors who made the MakerLab possible. President Laackman gave the closing address, complete with a “digital ribbon cutting,” where a live feed of the laser printer in the other room was displayed on the screen for everyone to see, burning a line down the center of a wood-carved ribbon.

This got my partner and me both thinking about how we could launch our own products. We’re creating an animated logo and a title sequence, could we have some kind of digital ribbon cutting? Furthermore, the MakerLab had a really cool animated logo, which built and unbuilt itself in a sequence of different patterns. For us, that was probably the most inspirational part of the event. Even though we may not be able to have an excuse to use any of the machines or tools at the MakerLab for our project, they are still amazing resources to have on our campus, and seeing the place still gave us some good material and good ideas for how to proceed with our project.

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