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UTA FabLab director attends White House roundtable of makerspace leaders

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

News Topics: innovation

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The University of Texas at Arlington is one of just nine universities nationally - and the only university from Texas - represented recently during a gathering of nearly 200 makerspace leaders at the White House.

The White House invited individuals representing makerspaces from across the country for dialog meant to empower Americans to become tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

Katie Musick Peery, director of the UTA Libraries’ FabLab, traveled to the nation’s capital Aug. 24 for the “Nation of Makers” meeting sponsored by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The event focused on leaders who organize makerspace events across the U.S.

Makerspace is defined as a community-operated work space where people with common interests in computers, machines, technology, science, digital art and other areas, meet, socialize and collaborate on projects. Fab Labs began as an outreach project from the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. UTA’s FabLab, located in the UTA Central Library, is the first MIT-affiliated FabLab at a university in Texas.

Discussions addressed legal structures for nonprofit organizations, methods for measuring benefits to the community, ways to cope with burnout, devices for maintaining diversity and inclusion, and plans for developing mentorships within organizations and other issues.

Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, applauded UTA for its invitation to the White House, and for promoting making, which provides students access to technology, excellent educational opportunities, and creative exchange under the FabLab initiative.

“UTA is at the forefront of STEM innovation in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex,” Veasey said. “Through the University’s FabLab, students have access to an environment that enhances their creative spirit and provides the tools they need to have a competitive edge in the job market of tomorrow. UTA’s invitation to the White House showcases the university’s mission to be the catalyst of innovation.”

Among other top schools participating in the event were Stanford, Boston University and Rutgers. Peery said she was honored to represent the only Texas university included.   

“Our students, faculty and staff have leveraged the open access to technology the UTA FabLab provides to further their personal, academic and professional endeavors,” Peery said. “The FabLab and UTA Libraries have the potential to impact the public and private sector in very tangible ways and we are honored to have been recognized with a private invitation to the White House.”

Rebecca Bichel, dean of UTA Libraries, applauded the invitation, Peery, and her FabLab team for being an example of true collaboration and inspiration.

“Katie and other UTA librarians are giving flight to many dreams for students, faculty, staff and individuals across North Texas,” Bichel said. “Both the public and private sector realize the investment in time, talent, innovation and collaboration is both valuable and necessary. It is impactful and at the core of capacity-building with regard to problem-solving and economic development.”

Peery takes a selfie outside the White House during the August meeting of the “Nation of Makers.”

Under Peery’s direction, the FabLab is expanding from 825 square feet to 8,000 square feet. Since its 2014 opening, it has provided access to cutting-edge technology such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, embroidery machines, digital media software and a robust learning laboratory.

When the expansion is complete, learners will have access to woodworking and metalworking equipment, electric kilns, screen printing and other equipment that allows for the cross pollination of the arts and humanities with science and technology. Much of the infrastructure for the space was developed by FabLab student employees, from custom built tables to software applications.

Among the more notable FabLab projects, is one by student employee Galen Sallee, who advanced to the final round in a national competition with the Mars Society to design a two-person fly-by mission to Mars. Startup company Rumy, as well as several faculty members, have completed projects with the help of the FabLab, and utilized the technology and equipment to make different components in the lab or assemble and finish projects at home or in other labs.

Bichel noted that the work aligns with all four tenets of the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

The August gathering followed a Nation of Makers meeting held earlier this summer by the National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C. At that session, maker representatives from 46 states exchanged dialog about inclusion and diversity in the maker community, possible government funding sources for makers, and the next steps for the Maker Movement.

About the UTA Libraries

Supporting The University of Texas at Arlington and the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region, UTA Libraries create transformational learning experiences by connecting people to first-class resources, empowering knowledge creation, exploring ideas and pursuing innovations in learning. The UTA FabLab offers all students access to cutting-edge technology for research in digital fabrication and data visualization. UTA Libraries Special Collections focuses on the history of Texas, Mexico and the Southwest, and includes one of the finest cartography collections on Texas and the Gulf of Mexico in the world. The Libraries recently completed an $800,000 cold storage preservation vault for its collection of approximately 5 million photographic negatives. To learn more about UTA Libraries, please visit http://library.uta.edu.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

For more on the UTA Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact, see www.uta.edu/strategicplan/.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.