Building a robot that can play Connect Four, filming a high-production TikTok, collaboratively studying, spray painting, putting together an airplane and imprinting designs on wood with a laser cutter can all happen within the same 8,500 square feet.
The Harvey Mudd College makerspace has what dreams are made of — or at least something to get you pretty close. The new space on the ground floor of Mudd’s McGregor Computer Science Center opened to the 5C community this fall semester.
Jeff Groves, professor of literature and director of the makerspace, assists the students in bringing ideas for the new makerspace to fruition and believes the project aligns closely with Mudd’s values.
“We have always had a maker culture at Harvey Mudd,” Groves said. “But we never really had a major space that was dedicated to it.”
The space is thoughtfully designed for all skill levels and curious students. The south entrance opens to a lounge and collaboration spaces. Deeper into the makerspace are more hands-on workbenches and equipment, like various types of 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, soldering irons, electronic stations, a spray painting room and a digital production studio. Right across the hallway from the makerspace are the Mudd student shops featuring metal and woodworking machines.
“We see the Hive, the Makerspace and the student shops on a continuum of maker spaces,” Groves said. “The Hive specializes in design thinking. It has some light tooling. We’re sort of intermediate in the Makerspace and have different kinds of equipment … For the more heavy-duty stuff, we have the student shops. Between all of those areas, the process of designing something and bringing it into reality should be a possibility.”
Thirty-seven stewards from across the 5C student body run the space and are trying to build a community of makers this year. Stewards will host workshops throughout the term to train students in equipment so they can pass the necessary safety quizzes for free rein of the machinery.
Four head stewards worked extensively through the past summer to prepare and create the space for the fall opening and to train other stewards. Head steward Rosy Weber SC ’23 has been utilizing a variety of skills, both technical and organizational, to bring the makerspace to life.
“Aside from my personal interest in learning the tools and techniques, I had a lot of interest in getting to play a role in creating a makerspace community — I’m a very relational person,” Weber said. “I loved the idea of getting to play a role in creating a space where people would collaborate and take risks and work together.”
Head steward Felix Murphy HM ’24 has been working on assembling an experimental plane with Professor of Engineering Design David Harris. He has found the layout of the makerspace and machine shops to be particularly useful.
“It’s been really handy to have the machine shops right nearby because we can have students laser cutting and 3D printing in the Makerspace, and then other students in the machine shops using the bandsaw in order to shape and cut metal,” Murphy said. “It’s a really nice and easy workflow between the two. One of the things I’m most excited about the Makerspace is the idea that we have all these long-term projects.”
Outside building utility contraptions and technology, the makerspace is also a haven for artistic expression, proving its versatility as a space for creativity and exploration. Steward Carrie Young SC ’22 is considering different ways to utilize the tools available in the makerspace for their senior thesis in art.
“Having this space open up is awesome, because it is like a different kind of art,” Young said. “There are just so many different possibilities of the ways that you can do art that isn’t just ceramics, or painting or drawing.”
The possibilities are not limited by the existing tools and techniques either. Bringing in new equipment will also be determined by student demand and the changing ecosystem of the space. The space is strongly focused on collaboration and helping each other.
“There’s a culture of ‘show up and ask questions and help each other,’” Young said. “If the steward on duty doesn’t know how to train you on the laser cutter, they’ll be able to look at a schedule and be like, ‘oh, the person who’s here tomorrow will know how to do that.’”
At the end of the day, the makerspace is an evolving reflection of the students who make it their own. The stewards are dedicated to cultivating an inclusive, welcoming space for anyone to make any use of their tools and work areas.
“There’s stuff in there that I never thought I would enjoy, but I’m having a blast,” Murphy said. “Over the summer, I learned how to use the embroidery machines. Wow. I guess I never thought I would be into that, but it’s so much fun. And that just came from just being able to mess around with things in the space. We’re doing our best to make it really accessible to everyone, and we want everyone to be able to come and say hi.”