Syracuse University Magazine


A team of students, led by Ben Marggraf '15, used the SU MakerSpace facility to develop a glove that enables the wearer to control a robotic hand with high precision and feedback through a sense of touch.

MakerSpace Making a Difference

Last August, Information Technology Services (ITS) officially launched the SU MakerSpace as a place on campus for students to learn and build innovative products using do-it-yourself approaches with such technology as 3D printers, textile machines, milling equipment, and a laser engraver. If the creations developed so far at MakerSpace are any indication of its success, then many a Syracuse student has a go-to place to turn their ideas into reality. “MakerSpace is breaking new ground for the University as it strives to prepare students for success in an ever-changing world,” says Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost Liz Liddy G’77, G’88, who sees great promise in MakerSpace. “I’m impressed by how it stimulates productive collaboration among students from different disciplines. It’s clearly a valuable resource for nurturing students’ personal intellectual discovery, self-education, and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Jean Henry ’71, G’06, an instructor in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, brought students from her course, Digital Fabric Printing, for a tour of MakerSpace, which shares space with the Kimmel Computer Lab and is similarly open to University students, faculty, and staff while providing skilled guidance and supervision. “Our intent was to see the large embroidery machine. It can stitch 16 colors simultaneously and embroider a 24-inch square in one hooping,” she says. “We saw the 3D printers and became intrigued by how that process would mesh—pun intended—with fabric design and fashion production. I envision 3D printed structures used as fabric or as embellishments. The potential is very exciting.”

Ben Marggraf ’15, who majored in biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, led a team of students who used MakerSpace as it was getting off the ground in spring 2014. “I was able to 3D-print objects my team designed for our haptic feedback glove project,” he says. The team, started by Marggraf and mechanical engineering major Tim Meyer ’15, developed a glove that enables the wearer to control a robotic hand with high precision and feedback through a sense of touch. Their project won 2014 and 2015 RvD IDEA Awards (which provide seed funding for student entrepreneurs) and an award in the college’s Invention and Creativity Competition. “MakerSpace is a place you can go with an idea and make it a reality,” Marggraf says. “If you want to make something, they have the means and the skills to help you do it.”

Kean Clifford G’14 leveraged his MakerSpace experience to launch his startup, Prey Fishing Tackle. A graduate student in the Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises program at the Whitman School of Management, Clifford established his firm to design and market customizable and biodegradable 3D-printed fishing lures. “At MakerSpace, I learned how to 3D print, and was encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship,” says Clifford, who holds an M.P.A. degree from the Maxwell School and an M.S. degree in fisheries research from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “It’s a hive of student talent.”

Maker spaces soon will have a profound impact on higher education, according to the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. The report finds maker spaces becoming increasingly relevant due to significant changes in “what types of skillsets have real, applicable value in a rapidly advancing world. In this landscape, creativity, design, and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations as tools such as 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling web-based applications become accessible to more people.”         —Christopher Finkle


SU MakerSpace provides the campus community the opportunity to build products using a variety of equipment, including 3D printers.

3D printer photo by Sarah Anthony; glove photo by Steve Sartori