Three things struck me during Dr. Baldauf’s presentation that I think are worth considering subsequent to our visit to PIC’s suite. First, he mentioned that one of the programs on campus (and my apologies for not jotting down the abbreviation) had purchased particularly high-end 3D printers, each around $250,000, but that the machines soon “all broke.” I’m thinking then of the plans for the Shores Innovation Hub that Dr. Baldauf showed and the amount of financial support needed for such an endeavor. How does a department weigh the benefits and risks of funding and purchasing, for example, the technology that innovation centers need? A space like what will exist in the redesigned Shores includes 3D printing, VR, scanners, and other technologies as well as places like a room for startup pitches, classrooms, and—I found this especially interesting—the aesthetically appealing exterior with the café and trellis. I suppose that my interest here concerns the process that goes into planning an innovation center on a college campus—what kinds of negotiations take place regarding deciding on the space (makerspace or, as here, an innovation center), how are budgetary concerns approached, and what kind of a role do students play in planning and implementing the space?
This leads me to my second point, which involves students and teaching in innovation centers. Speaking about access to the 3D printers, Dr. Baldauf mentioned that students can work in “ranks”—that some would be trained in how to operate the printers and software on their own, while others would assist faculty. I think that this is important, foregrounding the roles of students in such spaces: as interdisciplinary sites of collaboration and problem-solving, it seems prudent give students agency in working with the technology present and to let students teach fellow students. This might speak to the distinction between makerspaces and innovation centers that Dr. Baldauf highlighted. He made the point that the trend now is towards the latter rather than the former, and this makes sense: makerspaces privilege creativity and design, but innovation centers seem to combine creativity and design with application and problem-solving.
Thinking of application and problem-solving, I also want to consider the practical uses of technology like 3D printing and VR. I found Dr. Baldauf’s archeology example especially helpful. We’d read about museums like the Smithsonian using these technologies to reach different audiences, but thinking about uses within the university is also interesting. An archeologist may well not be able to remove artifacts from a site, but, if she can scan and later print 3D copies of those items, they can be used in the classroom to give students a multisensory experience that they might not otherwise have. Even something more common like a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s head stands to be experienced by students differently, and perhaps this is where interdisciplinarity comes in: students in a humanities seminar on the Civil War might find it more engaging and thus beneficial to touch and hold Lincoln’s (or another figure from the period’s) head.