Nestled on the left-hand side of the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a small room populated by a worktable and a few rolling swivel chairs. In the back, a small plastic poo emoji is being constructed on the print bed of one of two large 3D printers, its disk-like eyes glistening in dark plastic.
Sebastian Wallach ‘23, who is a Dyer Center Fellow and head of the subcommittee that helped bring the 3D printers to Lafayette, explained that he had been trying to demonstrate the uses of the technology to a faculty member’s daughter, who had put in a request for the poo emoji. Wallach also printed a geometric shape to help with her math homework.
The printers are part of the new “Maker Space” in the Dyer Center, and were donated to the college last semester by Wallach’s father. Wallach grew up with a type of home workshop thanks to his father’s engineering background and ownership of a company that sold crafting supplies, which allowed him to launch a number of ventures and experiments throughout his adolescence, ranging from building drones, to knitting and selling survival bracelets out of parachute cord.
Now, Wallach is a mechanical engineer, and hopes to harness the creativity and practicality he learned in his home growing up in a new space at Lafayette.
“[At Lafayette], I expected to be able to go somewhere and build something and not have to worry about coming up with materials, getting money to go get stuff from Home Depot, whatever it is,” he said. “And I got on campus, and I was like, there’s nowhere to do that. There was definitely a need for it.”
Soon after coming to Lafayette, Wallach met another Dyer fellow, George Crittenden ’21, who shared a similar sentiment and a burgeoning vision for just such a place—a maker space. Such a space, Wallach said, was envisioned to function as “really just a room where creativity can happen.”
Since last semester, Wallach and his subcommittee members have been working to stock the room with saws, screwdrivers, tape measures and a soldering station. Most recently, the team hosted an open workshop giving an overview of how to use the 3D printers and allowing students in attendance to gain fob access to the space.
“We are slowly growing and building workshops to further engage the student body with tinkering,” said Jenny Chen ‘22, one of the committee members.
Wallach said potential future events include a workshop hosted in conjunction with the Lafayette Fashion Society, utilizing sewing machines to quilt picnic blankets for students to use on the quad and beyond. Chen also outlined a plan for a “chocolate special where students can design and create chocolate designs that will get molded in silicon such that [the] molten chocolate can be customized.”
“In Acopian, they have maker spaces, but only engineers can get into them, and that’s not what we’re about here, anyone should be able to come in here. An art student, an [economics] major, whoever it is…anyone on the campus can come in here and start working on something,” Wallach said. “We want people to come in here who have never done anything with building anything before and feel comfortable learning to do so.”
The maker space, he added, is not relegated just to what can be made with the 3D printers.
“We’re not limited to building things…hopefully we have tools in here that you can use to get your process started or whatever it is,” he said.
“We want to see it as a space, not just for entrepreneurs, for anybody to come in and kind of just get away from it all. Even if you have a painting you want to be working on…come in here, set it up, take a break…tell people about it, and don’t be afraid to come.”