Binghamton University’s new STEAM Room, located in Appalachian Collegiate Center, emphasizes the importance of the arts element to the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math by allowing students to experiment with their creative sides through various projects.
The room is equipped to help students explore various interests with Mac computers that have Adobe Creative Suite and GarageBand, color and 3-D printers, tables for woodwork and a small room dedicated to sewing. Kevin Wright, a professor of human development and the collegiate professor of Mountainview College, worked with a team to create the STEAM Room this spring semester as a location for students to exchange creative ideas and to create projects by combining two unlikely subjects.
“For many of the things we utilize, if we don’t have the infusion of the arts with technology, the product won’t be as user-friendly,” Wright said.
Wright explained this idea through the example of cellphones, which incorporate art through their high-quality graphics and overall design that makes consumers want to buy the product.
“If we just left the cellphone to technology folks, the device probably would not be as small, have the nice-looking graphics we think are cool or have a friendly user interface,” Wright said.
Just about anything can go in the makerspace. Students can either work independently, or with a STEAM specialist — a member of a group of students with skills in the arts and technology — to see their ideas through. All tools are supplied, and according to Wright, if there’s a tool not provided, it may be requested. Recent projects have included necklace making with provided beads and wiring a personal robot.
“Recently, a student and I came up with the idea to make a backpack with a solar panel in the back that could charge your phone while you’re walking across campus,” Wright said. “And you could make that here because there’s technological tools and arts and crafts items provided for you to use.”
The STEAM Room opens the offer to students regardless of their major or skill sets. And while the specialists are there to help, Wright emphasized the importance of independence in the space. He says that this concept is not often embraced at schools.
“When you’re in a classroom, the way you learn is pretty one-sided,” Wright said. “Professors like me sit and talk to you for about an hour and sometimes there’s group work, but the professor decides how you learn. With a makerspace, the learning is totally up to you.”
Students can fully utilize the STEAM space and its tools, including sewing machines and computers, free of charge during the room’s open hours, though starting Fall 2017 materials will come with a fee.
The STEAM Room is located in Appalachian Collegiate Center Room G02 in Mountainview College and is open Monday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Everything is on a first-come, first-served basis, so appointments are not necessary.