Crowd turns out to explore new Maker Hub – Downtown

The university's second makerspace is located on the third floor of Elon Town Center on North Williamson Avenue and hosted a grand opening celebration on Thursday, Oct. 19. 

Elon’s new Maker Hub – Downtown boasts twice the space of the original makerspace in Colonnades, but even the additional square footage could barely contain the crowd of the curious that turned out for the hub’s grand opening celebration on Thursday. 

Student staff members of the new makerspace on the third floor of Elon Town Center on North Williamson Avenue offered demonstrations of 3D printers, a laser engraver, electronics workstations, vinyl cutters, a CNC router and a host of hand and power tools available to the university community for any number of projects they want to tackle. 

“The tools that we’re able to offer at Maker Hub – Downtown are pretty exciting,” said Dan Reis, a senior instructional technologist with Teaching and Learning Technologies who oversees both makerspaces at Elon. “They are going to allow Elon students, faculty and staff to do things that they haven’t been able to do before.”

A visitor examines a 3D printed whistle in front of Maker Hub – Downtown's bank of 3D printers. 
As visitors were filing into the Maker Hub on Thursday, Jerry Waller, systems librarian at Belk Library, was busy soldering circuits for a Raspberry Pi computer, a small and versatile machine that helps introduce many to coding. Waller is working with Alfred Simkin, assistant professor of biology, on creating and programming Raspberry Pi computers for a workshop Simkin will be hosting. 

Visitors look at the work of a Formlabs resin printer at work in Maker Hub – Downtown
He’s been working with Raspberry Pi computers for about four years and said the new electronics workstations at Maker Hub – Downtown offer ample space and equipment to take on a variety of projects. “It’s such a great workspace and is laid out so that I can create my own chaos, and then reorganize it,” Waller said. 

Many who arrived Thursday were already familiar with Elon’s first Maker Hub which opened in Harper Hall in the Colonnades Neighborhood in 2015. Last academic year, that hub saw more than 1,600 visits from students, faculty and staff, with an Elon Kickbox grant program that helps support student maker projects helping to spur interest.

With the opening of Maker Hub – Downtown, the first hub will continue to have a focus on 3D printing as well as equipment to work with textiles and fabrics, with an embroidery machine added to that location at the request of users. It was that focus on textiles that first drew Jack Dudich ’21 to the first Maker Hub, as he looked for a way to repair one of his shoes. 

Now Dudich said he’s visiting Maker Hub – Downtown almost daily as he undertakes a variety of projects, including a 3D printed orca for a friend and a homemade cage for a friend’s turtles. He was involved in ceramics in high school, and is looking forward to using Maker Hub – Downtown’s variety of power woodworking tools on new projects. 

“I just love making things,” Dudich said, “and the Maker Hubs offer so many options.”

Since the space officially opened in early September, about 15 classes have now been to the Maker Hub – Downtown for orientation sessions. Along with Elon 101 classes, the visiting groups represent a variety of disciplines, including education and communications, Reis said.

“We’re hoping after today, people will know we’re here, and what they can do here,” Reis said.