Campus & Community

First Women’s MakerSpace Workshop Introduces Students to Hands-On Resource for Creativity and Innovation

The November event kicked off an ongoing initiative to help more students take advantage of this state-of-the-art creative space

Since the Stevens Institute of Technology launched its MakerSpace in the ABS Engineering Center in Spring 2021 , the facility has been somewhat of a hidden treasure. But thanks to some dedicated students and faculty, the secret is getting out.

The MakerSpace facility is designed to help students complete construction projects using state-of-the-art equipment, such as automated tool cabinets, drill presses, a band saw, soldering work stations, 3D printers, a HoloLens headset and — the newest addition — a laser cutter. It’s a handy place to explore, work on school assignments and senior design projects, and even dive into personal hobbies and interests.

To access the MakerSpace and its tools, Stevens undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff only have to pass a safety quiz — and know that the facility and tool cabinets exist. Moreover, most of the current users at the MakerSpace are male, highlighting the clear opportunity to increase its use by actively inviting women at Stevens to explore the space. 

So when Sandra Clavijo, director of undergraduate studies for the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science, reached out to MakerSpace Director Paul McClelland with an idea to address that need, McClelland quickly recruited a team to host the school’s first women’s MakerSpace workshop.

A valuable tool in the student toolbox

Lily Stevenson ’23 introduces students to MakerSpace resourcesLily Stevenson ’23 introduces students to MakerSpace resources“I thought the workshop was a terrific idea because a lot of people don't know about the space or that they can have access to the automated tool cabinets,” said Lily Stevenson ’23, workshop project lead, who is studying civil engineering and works at the machine shop overlooking the MakerSpace. “Some students just go there to study and don't realize that they can use the tools.”

“From my experience, I know that it’s valuable for everything from school projects to my passion project, soldering stained glass,” Stevenson added. “So along with the mission of getting more women in the MakerSpace, I was excited to help raise awareness throughout Stevens.”

Also helping organize the workshop were Class of 2026 members and machine shop employees Nataly Jimenez, who is studying computer science, and Alicia Kearney, who’s majoring in mechanical engineering. In response to a posting to the campus chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, as well as word of mouth, five students participated in the November 17, 2022, event. 

“I only knew about the MakerSpace because a friend who enjoys creating personal projects had brought me there,” said Sabrina Elgazzar, Class of 2026, who is studying electrical engineering. “I was interested in everything the space had to offer. I couldn't wait to learn more and brush up on my tool skills. I also want to complete some personal projects, and the MakerSpace seems like the perfect place to do that.”

After the students had passed the safety quiz, Stevenson led them on a tour of the MakerSpace and the available tools. Then they got up close and personal with the equipment, drilling screws into blocks of wood and using the Milwaukee Sawzall electric saw. 

“We went step-by-step and learned how to use a drill and saw,” said Catherine Stabile, a member of the Class of 2026 who is studying mechanical engineering. The workshop marked her first visit to the MakerSpace.

“I have always wanted to do more with hands-on projects but never knew where to start,” Stabile added. “This was the perfect way to get started.”

Stevenson also encouraged the students to think about using the tools in ways beyond what they would need for classwork.

“In labs we have specific instructions on how to use these tools,” she explained. “I wanted the students to develop a sense of familiarity and confidence by using the tools multiple times in different ways. Because I am also a student, I think they were at ease asking every question they wanted. Now they can come to the MakerSpace and just feel comfortable and safe using the tools.”

With that freedom to explore, one of the students found an unexpected use for the bits of leftover wood cuttings.

MakerCenter Women's Workshop 2022 participantsMakerSpace Women's Workshop 2022 participants (left to right) Nataly Jimenez ’26, Sabrina Elgazzar ’26, Ella Joseph (kneeling), Catherine Stabile ’26, Alicia Kearney ’26 and Lily Stevenson ’23“We had been chopping pieces of wood with the saws, and the students decided to try creating a fun little sculpture by drilling some pieces together,” Stevenson recalled. “I was thrilled to see that creativity pop up because it showed how they wanted to do more than just chop wood and drill holes. They found joy in it and wanted to go beyond what was expected.” 

With this strong start, Stevenson is already planning a second, larger MakerSpace workshop for the spring. The event will be expanded to accept 15 to 20 students, and the agenda will include working with the 3D printers, laser cutter and other larger tools. 

“The MakerSpace is a great spot, and we have to continue to spread the word about it,” Stevenson said. “We now have five new female students on campus who know that they’re welcome in the MakerSpace, and they know how to use tools there. I’m looking forward to encouraging more students to use this amazing space and have confidence in their abilities here.”

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