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Penn State Opens Maker Commons

Penn State students and faculty all over the world can now design and 3D print their own materials at a new 3D printing lab known as the Maker Commons. The facility is housed in the Pattee Library's Knowledge Commons at the institution's University Park campus, but individuals from all Penn State campuses — including the online Penn State World Campus — can upload and print projects at Completed projects are delivered via the same system used for intercampus library materials requests.

The Maker Commons is equipped with 32 MakerBot desktop 3D printers and includes the Invention Studio, an exploration lab for rapid prototyping developed in partnership with littleBits. LittleBits' electronic building blocks snap together with magnets to create circuits, and allow students to connect objects to the Internet of Things.

"The Maker Commons provides students and faculty with new capabilities to engage in creative activities across disciplines," said Kyle Bowen, director of Penn State's Education Technology Services, in a press release. "This initiative is designed to support our students in pursuing their own learning, research and entrepreneurial accomplishments."

Faculty and students are finding uses for 3D printing across multiple disciplines. For instance, Penn State's Lunar Lion project, which aims to land a spacecraft on the moon within the next decade, uses 3D printers to build engine models and assorted small parts.

"When you start working with 3-D printers on a regular basis, you start to think in 3-D," said Mitchell Lester, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering and a member of the Lunar Lion team. "And when you get to hold the final product in your hands, it ignites a great desire to learn — not just in the classroom, but on your own time, too."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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