Since its settlement between Reading Road and Lincoln Ave in 2018, the 1819 Innovation Hub has become a feature of the University of Cincinnati (UC) that many institutions seek: a collaborative space that provides students and faculty to interact, research and create, all in one building.
"My experience as a co-op showed me how incredibly rewarding the community of makerspaces can be and helped me decide where I wanted to start my career," said Gabrielle Stichweh, UC industrial design alumna.
Due to COVID-19, the Innovation Hub has been left practically empty and void of its intended purpose- to strike creativity and let it flourish into physical form for all UC students and faculty.
"At the moment, there are many under-utilized aspects of the makerspace," said Stichweh. "I think it's because of a lack of knowledge of what we are currently offering."
The ground floor of the 1819 Innovation Hub - also known as the makerspace - contains more than 116 pieces of equipment, including angle grinders, miter saws, painting stations, 3D printers and even a waterjet machining center. Although COVID-19 has prevented the makerspace from allowing walk-in appointments to use this machinery, those wishing to pursue research or projects of their own should not be discouraged.
"I would love to see a wider variety of majors using the makerspace," said Stichweh. "Our resources can be helpful to any student's studies or just be used for personal projects."
The makerspace was designed for accessibility - all UC students and faculty who wish to use the equipment can, regardless of their major. Free training and certification in equipment use is mandatory, with the only cost being the hourly rate to use the machinery. The equipment is sorted into levels one through four, with level one being low injury risk and easy use equipment and level four being high tech, advanced machinery for industrial applications.
Dr. Jeffrey Kastner, an associate professor of engineering at UC, explained the importance of the space to the engineering department.
"I am not currently doing engineering research, but I can see the value of the space," he said. "I have often had students come to me with ideas about new products, and I direct them to the Innovation Hub website to get more information. They have plenty of good training opportunities for students to learn about how to bring an idea to fruition. This is both from the business side and also from actually developing the product using their state-of-the-art equipment."
Besides technical academic applications, the 1819 Innovation Hub also acts as an outlet for majors not based in hard science. The makerspace offers tools such as Canon cameras, plotters, tripods and sewing machines that can be difficult to access on campus. The space acts as a melting pot of different disciplines combined into one space.
"I have heard about the 1819 Innovation Hub. I saw a presentation from some of the leaders of the makerspace and the faculty connected to it," said Dr. Andrew Lewis, an associate professor in the department of political science at UC. "It seems like an exciting opportunity for our students and our community. There are very few places to have the opportunity to get hands on experience using various high-tech tools. I don't personally expect to use the space, but I will certainly encourage students to explore it."
To access the space, students and faculty must enroll in the 1819 Innovation Hub canvas page and read the instructions, safety precautions, complete the tutorial video and finish a ten-point virtual orientation quiz. Afterward, one can sign up for a consultation to figure out which equipment is right for their project, schedule a certification session at the lab or upload their project to be 3D printed or manufactured.
Phil Nolette, a second-year mechanical engineering technology major at UC, saw potential for other students and his own projects at the makerspace.
"The one time I've been there, there were only three people," said Nolette. "I love soldering, I'm really good at it, but I have nothing to solder. I think I could use this place if something came to me. I don't see any other place that has a soldering iron."
The makerspace provides a platform for those with little to no experience or immense knowledge in design, engineering, or manufacturing to explore what it means to create something physical. As an interdisciplinary space, the makerspace provides a wealth of knowledge for all UC students to explore their interests.
"The software is mostly intuitive," said Nolette. "Even if you wanted to just make a ball, it would be very easy. Or maybe even a miniature guitar. COVID-19 is a restriction, but it doesn't have to be restrictive on our creativity."
The 1819 Innovation Hub is a beacon of ingenuity when creation and self-development are needed most. Although underutilized, it offers many opportunities for those who want to explore their ideas. After the effects of COVID-19, the space is looking forward to expanding in usage while enlightening the students of UC.
"I see the 1819 Innovation Hub expanding a lot in the coming years," said Stichweh. "We hope to increase membership as soon as it is safe to do so. We're also exploring access for community members who aren't students at UC. I can see makerspaces becoming more common in the next 10 years, and I want to be a part of 1819 becoming a reliable resource not only for UC students but for our community at large."
Find out how to access the 1819 Innovation Hub makerspace here.