Glenn Walters loves makerspace, even when something flops.
 
That’s how Glenn Walters, PhD, director of the Environmental Sciences and Engineering (ESE) Design Center at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, summarizes the newly opened makerspace, housed on the lower level of UNC’s Hanes Art Center.
 
“Perfection doesn’t teach you nearly as much as screwing something up and then fixing it,” he says, as he fits a sheet of acrylic into the workshop’s precision laser cutter.
 
For more than two years, Walters has taken a leadership role with the Be A Maker (BeAM) initiative on campus. (See uncbeam.org.)

BeAM oversees a growing network of makerspaces, in which UNC students and members of the faculty and staff are given tools and training to turn metal, wood and electronics into solutions for scientific and technical challenges – or into art.

The core philosophy of BeAM’s leadership committee parallels that of “maker culture,” an international movement concerned that hands-on skills are undervalued in today’s digital world. The movement is part of a fast-growing national trend, and some students consider availability of such spaces as a factor in deciding which college to choose.

Walters was invited to join the BeAM committee as an expert adviser for tool and technology selection. He agreed, excited to give students and others an opportunity to build their own creations.

He loves the challenges of his job at the ESE Design Center but says the center mostly serves those who need to have a finished product designed and fabricated to further their research.

“My job there is to take ideas – which often aren’t fully formed – and come up with functional solutions,” Walters explains. “The goal of the makerspaces is for people to be empowered to get hands-on experience and develop solutions for themselves.”

Walters says that having a better grasp of the available tools and processes leads one to think more expansively, which frequently leads to a more elegant and innovative final product.

 

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