Technological advancement is rapidly changing the education game. However, in many cases advanced equipment is prohibitively expensive for student use.
The UA libraries are aiming to change that. Located in the Science-Engineering Library, the iSpace is dedicated to giving students the experience they need with cutting-edge technologies.
Located in the building’s basement, the iSpace contains a huge screen comprised of many smaller monitors, a 3-D printer and scanner suite and a green room dedicated specifically to virtual reality applications. Alongside this maker bling, the spot also sports equipment such as a laser cutter, router and Raspberry Pi/Arduino computing materials.
Jessica Shumake is an assistant professor in the College of Information who teaches classes on digital communities, culture and social spaces. Shumake has used the iSpace in her classes and is optimistic about the space’s role in education.
“The activities and programming offered by the iSpace is open to all members of the campus community. If a student wants to learn about 3-D printing, then she might decide to come to the 3-D print club meetings. If a student wants to learn about mobile app development, she might come to a Friday technology talk,” Shumake said. “I would recommend anyone who is interested in iSpace activities and events subscribe to their email list to stay informed about all the scheduled talks, workshops, etc.”
That email list is the key to the other side of what the iSpace offers: technology-related events and programming. Weekly iSpace events include the 3-D design-focused Modeling Monday, which teaches students to scan and model 3-D designs; Tuesday virtual reality demos, What’sa Wednesdays, which showcases new devices; Threaded Thursdays—focused on digital-enabled clothing and sewing and Friday Tech Talks.
Friday Tech Talks are hosted every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. and feature an expert’s presentation on tech subjects from drones to developing web maps. These talks are free—one of the iSpace’s big strong points.
Shumake is no stranger to the iSpace’s strengths, describing it as “a better space to learn” with students.
In addition to the positive attitude of the iSpace and its staff, the facility also offers a number of lower-tech design features to foster productivity and creativity.
“The iSpace is an environment that supports students to feel much more like they are active co-participants in the creation of valuable knowledge and meaningful insights because there is no designated front of the room,” Shumake said.
Most of the walls in the iSpace are comprised of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards for students to claim space and use the entire wall to feel-out their ideas. Even details like how the furniture is arrainged in the room is designed to make a physical space that fosters collaboration.
But for all its strengths and opportunities, the iSpace is still just one studio. Shumake’s hope is that the iSpace will start to receive more recognition and eventually gain a larger space with more student involvement.
Subscribe to the iSpace’s newsletter to keep up-to-date on all of their events, or stop by yourself to build your own robot.
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