Full STEAM Engine ahead: Makerspace undergoes exciting changes

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Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) is putting the ‘make’ back in makerspace.


The makerspace, or STEAM Engine as it’s formally known on campus, has been creating all kinds of nifty things for about four years now, but up until recently, a lot of those things were essentially made to order by STEAM Engine staff. That’s all changing.

“We’re training people how to make things as opposed to doing it for them,” said Dr. Dwain Desbien, Physics Instructor/STEAM Engine Faculty Liaison.

To that end, Desbien and STEAM Engine staffers have been busy putting together instruction manuals for the various machines and equipment, as well as hosting Maker Mondays, a drop-in learning opportunity for employees the first and third Monday of every month.

“I’m helping to build the trainings and helping faculty start utilizing the STEAM Engine in their classes,” Desbien said. “I actually used some of my students as guinea pigs last semester when I held a 30-minute training and then instructed them to complete their honors projects in the makerspace.”

The makerspace encompasses two rooms in Mariposa Hall. Room 139 houses several 3D and laser printers, a vinyl cutter, sewing machines, and a computer-controlled quilter, while Room 140, right across the hall, is the woodshop, complete with a lathe, table and miter saws, a drill press, and a planer.

Leveraging the makerspace for class projects gives students experiences they may not have had otherwise.

“It’s a skill they might not normally have access to,” Desbien said.

It also falls in line with EMCC’s “Learning College” philosophy.

“We’re turning it into a learning space versus a space where people can order things,” said Tim Wilson, who was recently hired to manage the makerspace. “Our priority here is to teach. We’re an educational facility on an education campus. Our priority is learning.”

Wilson comes to EMCC most recently from Paradise Valley Community College where he managed Veterans Services. He also has plenty of experience in Student Affairs, not to mention some skills that make him a perfect fit for the makerspace. Prior to coming to Maricopa Community Colleges, Wilson was an aircraft mechanic for 13 years and trained by Boeing as a machinist. He also builds custom furniture.

“I like working with my hands,” Wilson said. “And I like teaching people how to do things. So this is a great fit.”

The STEAM Engine is open from noon to 5 p.m. Mondays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 3 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. It’s also available via appointment. Students, faculty, and staff are welcome to undergo training during open hours or through an appointment. Once trained on a specific machine, users are welcome to use it during open hours or by appointment. To make an appointment, email EMCCSTEAM@estrellamountain.edu.

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