There’s a new “creation space” at Schewel Hall, where faculty and students can create online lessons, presentations, and even parts for telescopes. The space, located in Schewel 342, was a training lab for Lynchburg’s Office of Information Technology and Resources until Charley Butcher, an instructional technology specialist with ITR, thought it could be more than that.
“I started talking to Jackie back in February about transforming that space into a creation space,” Butcher said, referring to ITR director Jackie Almond. “I have a K through 12 background and taught for 16 years. I’ve bought into the maker space movement that’s out there and thought this could be a start for that kind of thing.”
Almond, who had heard about similar initiatives at nearby colleges, put her stamp of approval on the project. With assistance from the provost’s office, a 3D printer was purchased for the space. A second 3D printer was re-purposed from another office on campus. Faculty from the College of Business built a light board — a sort of clear chalkboard that’s used to make video presentations.
“It cost us very little,” Almond said. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to move forward. That’s one of Charley’s strong suits: He can make something out of nothing. We had the camera, we had the space. We did the buy the 3D printer. The green screen is green paint and physical plant provided that. We’re doing a lot of stuff on the cheap. It’s costing us very little and I think we’ll get a big return on what little we invested.”
Everything in the space is meant to have a short learning curve. “The goal is to be such a user-friendly system that they push ‘record’ on the camera, go do their thing, push ‘stop,’ and edit all on their own,” Butcher said of the light board and video setup. “There are places where I can post some instructions, and if they need me to I can hold their hand through the process. I’m more than willing to do it.”
Nick Savino ’19 has used one of the 3D printers to make a part for the telescope at the University’s Belk Observatory. “I’ve utilized that space to make an adapter for a small spectrograph to be attached to a telescope,” Savino, a physics major, said. “It’s a cylinder that attaches the two components. It was a relatively simple process to make the part using an online CAD program called Tinkercad.”
Savino also will be using the 3D printer later this year for his senior project, creating what he described as an “automated watercraft.”
Students in Dr. Jimmy Roux’s Interpersonal class (COMM 112) are using the equipment to make presentations for their midterms and finals. “It has been more popular than what we’ve done before,” Dr. Roux, professor of communication studies and nonprofit leadership, said.
Dr. Roux has other plans for the space as well. “We’re going to be videotaping in there — situations, conflict situations — where students can look at that video and do analysis of the person’s verbal strategy and skills, as well as their nonverbal communication,” he said. “That’s what our plan is. I’m really excited about it because students are really getting turned on to the idea of using videos and having more experiential learning in class than just lecture.”