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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

New makerspace in Johnson Memorial Building open to students, locals

A new makerspace in Christian A. Johnson Memorial Building welcomes people of all ages and experience levels interested in turning their ideas into physical objects. 

After a student appealed to the administration about seven years ago, the college installed some creation gear in the Johnson Memorial Building with the hope of expanding the range of equipment and the curricular options associated with it for both the college and the town. Now, after over a year of renovations to the building, a new makerspace has been unveiled in Johnson 102, hosting a wide range of machinery, including vinyl cutters, a heat press, laser cutters, filament and resin 3D printers, a 3D scanner, and a 6-axis industrial robotic arm.  

The space has been open since the beginning of the school year and held an open house for students and locals on Sept. 30.

Daniel Houghton, a professor of industrial design and manager of the makerspace, said the renovation offered the perfect opportunity to create the makerspace the college had been considering for years.

“It was a chaotic reality of trying to do something and not knowing how for a while. Eventually, enough stars align and you can take the next step, and it's exciting,” Houghton told The Campus.

Currently, college students, faculty and staff, as well as town residents, are welcome to use the makerspace during designated open hours. Houghton told the Addison Independent that he plans to offer about 12 open hours each week, during which anybody can drop by the space.

Houghton’s long-term goal, however, is to allow community members 24/7 key card access to the space. He hopes to achieve this goal by creating a strong makerspace community that has pledged to comply with specific standards.

One of those standards, according to Houghton, is the expectation that people will complete equipment training prior to taking on projects. He described each machine as “quirky” and is working to create videos to educate people on the space’s machines, keeping in mind that everyone begins with different levels of background knowledge on how to use whatever equipment is in front of them. 

Houghton added that he hopes local kids, town residents and college students alike will learn how to use the machines. 

Another standard outlined in the makerspace pledge is a focus on community care. Houghton said he believes that one of the most important steps toward giving community members all-day access to the space is creating a community that takes care of and looks out for one another. He envisions a community that is not only engaged with each others' projects, but also shares knowledge to the benefit of everyone.

Another important aspect of this knowledge sharing, Houghton added, is ensuring that anyone can participate. He explained that equipment, community and expertise should be available to everyone, and hopes newcomers feel welcome and encouraged to ask questions while self-identified experts share their knowledge in return. 

In an effort to kickstart this community environment, the makerspace will have student managers who can offer a welcoming hello as well as instruction and advice to visitors of the space. 

Talia Trigg ’26 is one of those friendly faces tasked with greeting newcomers and returners to the space. She started out in Houghton’s industrial design class last fall and had an internship at Mechanical Advantage — a local Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine shop — in the winter. Trigg said she is excited to finally have access to these tools on campus with the new makerspace.

“I've always loved making things and I grew up on a farm fixing stuff… but I had very little experience with manufacturing techniques or this kind of equipment… Just the atmosphere of creativity and having tools to make ideas into reality feels very freeing and natural to me,” Trigg told The Campus.

Trigg said she hopes that the space will serve as a hub for connection by working with different departments to create the materials they need. She envisions the space being put to use as a resource for making devices that people cannot get elsewhere on campus, such as high-precision physics lab tools. 

Trigg also described how easy it will be for people to get started in the makerspace, emphasizing that people with varying skill levels are not only welcome, but encouraged to use the space. The most difficult obstacle facing makerspace managers currently is spreading the word about its existence, she added — once people are aware, they can take advantage of the resources available in the space, and see that it is easy to start creating. 

The makerspace is designed to be accessible to locals of all ages, Houghton said, emphasizing that there is room for both college students and the local community. 

“When I count up the best-case scenario of every student on campus being interested in this space, I still feel like there's room [for others] when most students are asleep on a Saturday morning,” he added.

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Trigg and Houghton hope for the makerspace to be a welcoming place for those unfamiliar with the equipment and they look forward to sharing their expertise with everyone who chooses to stop in and check out the new space.

More information about the makerspace can be found at