One could describe the new Innovation Lab in Earl Hall as 950 square feet of potential. After all Reddit, Def Jam Records, Snap Chat, vintage-style clothing seller Modcloth, and even copy service provider Kinko’s are all storied to have begun while the founders were in college.
The Innovation Lab is housed in the basement of Earl Hall, the academic residential community option for students studying pre-business. Doors opened for fall term with an official grand opening November 11.
The lab is designed to help develop students’ ability to critically think, create, problem-solve, collaborate, take risks and learn from failure, explained Collette Niland, assistant dean for undergraduate programs at the Lundquist College of Business.
Niland said students and staff arrived at the idea for an innovation lab/maker space at about the same time. The Lundquist College had been operating its Building Business Leaders residential program, as well as its pre-business residential program in Earl Hall. Like many residence halls, the basement held little aside from laundry facilities, with lots of unused space for the right project. Niland said the lab was a next logical step in our immersive business experience.
The innovation lab currently includes three 3D printers, 2 vinyl cutters, an industrial sewing machine, a Dremel, various hand tools, video teleconferencing equipment, table space, lockers, and computer terminals.
Ideally, the lab will be part of a larger network of innovation and maker spaces where business students and students from other disciplines—such as product design, architecture and computer and information science—can come together to create.
“Our hope is that it will serve as a catalyst to promote community outreach and engagement,” said Niland.
Access is limited to residents, but any current student may use the space with a Business Residential Community or Building Business Leaders resident member present.
The lab is primarily funded through a gift from Kim Caldwell ’69. Some additional support came from University Housing in the form of paint, lighting, carpet cleaning, and supplies. Feeney Wireless also donated some smart devices for the space.
New elements are to be added each year. Niland would like students to help identify what tools, equipment, and gadgets will best serve them.
The Lundquist College’s director of Information Services and Instructional Technology Shandon Bates recently attended a conference on maker spaces held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT.)
“Ours compared well,” Bates said. “It’s well organized and open. A lot of them are fairly cramped.”
Innovation Lab benefactor and alumnus Caldwell enjoyed a long and successful career at pressure-sensitive adhesive materials maker Avery Dennison. With so many tools at their disposal, perhaps the next adhesive label or sticky note will come from the mind—and basement—of an Oregon business student.
Said Niland, “Never underestimate the ability of these undergraduates. They continue to astonish and amaze me.”