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On the third floor of the science building is a laboratory that houses five 3D printers of varying models. Computers line the exterior walls, all equipped with three-dimensional digital rendering software. On the central table, you’ll likely see a collection of small plastic models—printed by UMB students, faculty and staff. This is MakerSpace, an innovative 3D printing lab that opened in the Fall of 2016.
When: Monday – Thursday: 11:00am to 5:00pm & Friday: 9:00am to 1:00pm
3D printing, or Additive Manufacturing (AM) is becoming a broader and more relevant technology, spawning advancements in many fields: from manufacturing, to bioengineering, and even to food. The concept is relatively simple. A digital design is electronically divided into several thin layers, and the machine intricately deposits material, layer after layer, until the object takes physical shape. With the arrival of MakerSpace, anyone in the UMass Boston community may utilize this technology. Simply stop into the lab, or visit the MakerSpace webpage for information.
The space was founded by Apurva Mehta. After serving the university for twenty-one years, Mehta took on the role of Associate CIO for the Information Technology Services (ITS) in 2015. Since then, one of his biggest projects has been to bring this exciting new technology to UMass Boston. He’d been working on the idea for three years—even before his appointment as Associate CIO. With the help of Helenmary Hotz, GIS Lab Manager for the School for the Environment (SFE), he secured room 34 of the science building and began turning MakerSpace into a reality. Now, about a dozen faculty, staff and students tend to this brand-new project.
Aside from Mehta, one of the biggest advocates for this new laboratory is UMass Boston Biochemistry Senior Lecturer Tara Ashok. Ashok is excited about the potential of this innovative technology and grateful that her students will have access to it early in their academic careers. Professor Ashok has been studying biochemistry, epigenetics and anthropology since the late seventies, when she was a student at the University of Deli. Over the years, she’s seen how technology has taken the field of Biology to new and exciting heights. Says professor Ashok, “Biology and technology are like skis. Both need to be working in tandem to move forward.”
Ashok recently had students partake in an assignment where they designed models of human organs. The most common choices were the liver and the stomach, but one student went as far as attempting to print a model of a human skull. This assignment was perhaps inspired by the work of Dr. Anthony Atala, who Ashok had the pleasure of meeting in 1997. Atala is now the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Atala is one of the leading figures in “printable organs”—a practice that uses cells from the body and 3D printing technology to create working organs. In a 2011 TED Talk, he presents a transplantable human kidney that was printed using actual human cells.
While MakerSpace might not be printing any functioning kidneys, it provides a collaborative learning space for anyone at UMass Boston to gain experience with this rapidly developing technology. Founder Apurva Mehta is excited to see how the space is utilized by all departments of the university. When asked about the future of MakerSpace, his message was clear: spread the word, get people excited and get 3D printing integrated into more classes.
If you are interested in integrating the MakerSpace into your curriculum, please reach out to us at MakerSpace@umb.edu.