Garret Hill, the student coordinator for Orange Coast College’s Makerspace, rhythmically tapped on an Ultimaker 3D printer while a student stared anxiously over his shoulder.
As another student carefully lined up a hand saw against a piece of wood for a tabletop, two more students walked in the door and set themselves up at an open desk space with a single plank of wood and a laptop viewing a 3D model.
Not long after, Hill worked his way over to help the two new people, and several more students came in chatting and setting up equipment.
As the morning became lunchtime and more students came in through the doors, the workshop was packed full of professional manufacturing equipment. The makerspace, located in OCC’s Technology Center, has become a humming midpoint of creation and productivity.
Students sat clumped together over small laptops with grins on their faces as they waited for assistance from Hill before running their program.
“It’s a space to create anything we want. There are people to help us,” Aryana Kavoosi, a 25-year-old architecture major said of the small wooden table.
Other students work on projects to carve an intricate 3D pattern into a piece of wood.
The wood wasn’t a project for a grade or to make money — it was simply a chance for the students to explore their potential with new technology.
“Our mission statement is enabling students to explore technology and fabrication,” Steven Fuchs, an architectural technology instructor at OCC and the leading faculty member of the OCC Makerspace said.
“This isn’t a class, it’s a space for students to use, more like a garage. Students can ask about equipment and if we don’t have it, we might be able to buy it for them.”
The makerspace is free for any OCC student to use.
Loc Do, a 20-year-old architecture major said students can also get internships to learn how to use the machines.
Fuchs said students can even sell the products they make.
OCC isn’t the only community college to boast a makerspace.
Funding for California community college makerspaces came from a $17 million grant in 2017. The Coast Community College Maker program, with coordination provided by Sierra Community College, directs the local distribution of the funding. Since then, Fuchs has worked to direct a portion of this money toward a massive collection of tools and resources for OCC students.
At OCC, fabrication technology is the strongest focus of the makerspace.
The space boasts an entire wall lined with 3D printers of various sizes.
A full-sized computer numeric control machine is dedicated to making surfboards. Two smaller machines are available for students to use for any purpose, and a much smaller, safer machine is available for small projects and for training students new to the machines.
A variety of traditional woodworking equipment is also accessible, including table saws, band saws, hammers, hand saws, sandpaper and measuring equipment. The makerspace also has a laser cutter.
For audio/video production, students can use specialized equipment, such as a shock-absorbing camera attachment, lenses, SD cards, headphones and wearable microphones.
New and unusual tools are regularly added.
A T-shirt and hat printer is now in the shop. It can take a simple image file and print it directly to the clothing.
The makerspace acquired an embroidery machine that has yet to be set up. Boxes of Raspberry Pi computers sit untouched and waiting for students to experiment with.
These opportunities are not just being seen as a chance for students to advance themselves personally. There is a strong initiative within the national maker community to use the makerspaces as an opportunity for disadvantaged students to have an even playing field for career advancement.
“It’s great for students who want an outlet besides their major,” Fuchs said. “We have a medical student that comes in here to study photography. There’s a lot of crossover and collaboration between projects. Some students don’t even have a particular agenda. They just want to be around the creative energy.”