UNSW’s Makerspaces empower creative students and staff

The University has launched Australia’s largest Makerspace network with several distinct labs across its campuses, enabling collaborative and open access to powerful machinery. 

Students use the Makerspace, a space where they can make things.

The UNSW Makerspace Network provides barrier-free access to tools and tech for the University’s students, staff and external partners. The Makerspaces consist of dozens of labs, hundreds of machines and thousands of project solutions, enabling exciting creative opportunities for everyone at UNSW. 

UNSW’s Makerspaces, managed by the Engineering and Art & Design faculties, have been designed to change the perception of what a workshop can be. By encouraging cross-disciplinary engagement and breaking down barriers of access, the University is changing the perception of workshops as intimidating and closed environments. The Makerspaces are filled with friendly student ambassadors and powerful, accessible machinery. 

Engineering students

With its Makerspaces, the University is at the forefront of a global shift towards a more practical and hands-on approach to education known as ‘project-based learning’. UNSW educators such as Engineering Associate Lecturer Daniel Eggler are leading the charge. 

“In an increasingly competitive job market, it is critical that we are equipping our students with the best skillset upon graduation. Engineering is more than just formulas, theories and designs on paper. At its heart, engineering is all about providing a solution to a problem. Yet, one of the largest stumbling blocks for students is deploying real-world solutions,” said Dr Eggler, Associate Lecturer in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. 

“Project-based learning engages our students with real-world problems that require teamwork to produce an outcome that would never have been possible for any one individual. The Makerspace in particular provides our students with the capabilities to get hands-on, to experience the realities of design and manufacture firsthand. It allows them to learn more than they ever could just by putting pen to paper.” 

Engineering students speak with James Kirby

Similarly, Jim Ward, Manager of the Art & Design Makerspace, notes the huge impact the $600,000 investment UNSW has made into the Paddington campus Makerspace will have on their students. 

“The recent completion of the Estate Improvement Plan-funded upgrades to the Faculty of Art & Design’s 3D Hub and Makerspace has invigorated the student-focused spaces. As well as increasing the amount of physical space available for interdisciplinary, student-led projects and active, experiential learning, the project has created the Faculty’s first large scale digital fabrication lab which will have a massive impact on the scale of digitally fabricated outputs in the Faculty,” he said.  

Launch of James N Kirby Makerspace

Estate Management has delivered the Art & Design, James N Kirby and Renewables Makerspaces over the past year as part of ongoing initiatives to optimise the University’s spaces for empowered learning communities.  

“The Makerspaces across campus have created exciting new ways to learn and collaborate at UNSW. One of the most rewarding aspects of working at Estate Management is seeing our work enable new educational possibilities for our students, and the Makerspaces are a perfect example of this,” said Sancha Cromie, Acting Executive Director, Estate Management. 

The Makerspaces launched across the Kensington and Paddington campuses each have their own unique identities: 

  • The Design Futures Lab is focused on exploration, innovation and research into fabrication, emerging technologies and design theories. 

  • The Elec Makerspace is located in the newly-refurbished Electrical Engineering building, featuring a collection of 3D printers and other exciting resources. 

  • The James N Kirby Makerspace encourages students to tinker, prototype and fabricate. A generous donation from the James N Kirby Institute enabled the creation of this space. 

  • The Michael Crouch Innovation Centre (MCIC) aims to embed entrepreneurial confidence in every student, staff and alumni experience. 

  • The Renewables Makerspace is located in the Tyree Building and has a focus on sustainability. 

  • The UNSW Art & Design Makerspace is located at the Paddington campus. It seeks to dissolve the gaps between the disciplines of art and design, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The process to access equipment is easy. Health and Safety inductions and other processes have been streamlined by the Makerspace website, where anyone can earn induction badges and start a project. 

This piece first appeared on Inside UNSW. Images were taken at the Opening of the James N Kirby Makerspace in 2019.