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Published August 31, 2020
The University of Wyoming Student Innovation Center has rebranded itself as the Innovation Wyrkshop.
The College of Engineering and Applied Science workshop is the university’s largest makerspace. It serves as an experiential active-learning environment to foster community innovation, creativity, curiosity and entrepreneurship through state-of-the-art technology and interdisciplinary collaboration.
“The Innovation Wyrkshop’s primary goal is to ignite innovation,” says Tyler Kerr, coordinator for the makerspace. “We wanted our name and image to represent a playful take on our passion for creative making here in Wyoming. It’s our job to provide technology and equipment to students, faculty, staff and community members that they may otherwise not be able to access at home. And, importantly, we want to promote an atmosphere where makers from all technical levels, abilities and backgrounds can bring their unique experiences and perspectives to the creative design process.”
The 3,500-square-foot makerspace is located on the first floor of the new Engineering Education and Research Building. It offers access to state-of-the-art equipment, including high-resolution desktop 3D printers; industrial PolyJet machines; advanced industrial and metal 3D printers; 3D scanners; laser cutters; computer numerical control routers and mills; an electronics bench; a fully equipped woodshop; and a crafting corner with commercial and industrial sewing machines and vinyl cutters.
Prior to COVID-19, the Innovation Wyrkshop provided creative space for approximately 1,000 monthly makers to share discoveries, work together and learn to use state-of-the-art technology to form a rich, user-driven maker culture at UW, Kerr says.
As 3D printing groups and makerspaces around the world took up a grassroots “call to arms” to help supplement supply chain shortages during the pandemic, so did the Innovation Wyrkshop. Kerr and his team of students made full use of the makerspace’s equipment to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of the greater statewide Wyoming Technology Coronavirus Coalition. The 3D printing efforts led by the Innovation Wyrkshop continue, with more than 6,700 3D printed or laser-cut face shields and face masks produced for free for 43 medical communities and schools across Wyoming.
Students eager to get back to the makerspace don’t have to wait too long for the doors to reopen, Kerr says. The Innovation Wyrkshop is developing its regular calendar of workshops, special events and engaging extracurricular activities for curious makers, he adds.
The makerspace will once again offer a rotation of more than 30 free instructional workshops each week starting Monday, Sept. 28. In-person, hands-on, smaller capacity workshops will be offered, with strict safety and sanitization measures in place. Additional PPE, such as gloves and face shields, will be provided to those who want them, and all machines will be disinfected between uses.
In the next few weeks, makers interested in exploring self-guided virtual workshops will be able to access the Innovation Wyrkshop’s catalog of virtual programming, which allows makers to train themselves online at their own pace. Those interested can visit the makerspace’s brand-new website to explore equipment; sign up for workshops; read about the makerspace’s current initiatives; interact with detailed digital 3D models of the equipment; and compete with peers in do-it-yourself design challenges that offer rewards.
“We’re so excited for this next chapter in our story,” Kerr says. “We want to ensure that this space continues to be a central hub for making across Wyoming for years to come. The ever-changing atmosphere of the makerspace and the new and exciting challenges are what make the space so engaging and electric. One day, makers might be printing board game pieces. The next day, they could be printing parts of a prosthetic hand, or helping to repair a snowmobile, or laser cutting cow tags, or researching fish mouth orientation in Lake Tanganyika, or creating teaching models to help classes better visualize mule deer migrations. The list goes on.”
To learn more about the Innovation Wyrkshop, visit wyrkshop.org.