After being empty for two years, the first floor of Carruthers Hall is lively once again with students turning innovative new ideas into tangible products.
SparQ Studios, originally located in the Integrated Learning Centre (ILC), has moved its studio to the former Gordon Vogt Studio Theatre. The space had been empty since the Drama Department moved to the Isabel in 2014.
The studio, which is part of the Queen’s Innovation Connector (QIC), serves as a community-oriented space — called a makerspace — where people can gather to develop product prototypes at a low cost with the support of the studio’s resources.
SparQ Studios in Curruthers Hall (Photo by Anna Maria Li).
Greg Bavington, executive director of QIC, said there were two things QIC wanted to achieve in moving SparQ Studios to Carruthers Hall.
The first is to create a “street presence”, meaning a greater presence on campus and in turn greater visibility to students.
Secondly, to ensure that the studio is on “neutral turf” – meaning in a building that hasn’t been traditionally associated with a faculty, school or an academic program that could make it feel less welcoming to other students.
The new location has increased equipment inventory, made SparQ Studios more visible to the public and offers more physical space in the studio.
“I can’t even imagine what might come out of this in the next five years,” Bavington said.
The concept for SparQ Studios emerged during the first summer of QIC (then called the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative, or QSII) in the summer of 2012. Bavington said they began to notice a need for a space that enabled students to quickly and cheaply mock up or build their ideas.
“As we were starting the cohort in 2013, a group of four students said there should be a makerspace on Queen’s campus and we said, ‘We will give you a room and $5,000 — build one’. And they did.”
Since then, Bavington says the QIC has bought around $50,000 worth of equipment.
“We have some very generous and visionary alumni, a very supportive University administration and the provincial government has stepped up quite a bit too through the Ministry of Research and Innovation,” he said.
The makerspace provides accessible and affordable ways for students to transform an idea into a tangible product.
“We have had QIC students make everything from beer, to backpacks, to cricket based flour, to sunglasses, to jewelry, to medical device sanitizers, to portable phone chargers,” Bavington said.
To become a SparQ Studios member, there’s a fee of $30 per term or $50 for two terms. After paying the fee and completing safety training, members receive access to all machinery and 200 grams of material for 3D printing.
Francis Campbell, the director of SparQ Studios, said the studio is designed to be easily converted to a presentation space.
StudioQ holds weekly Wednesday workshops alternating between technical presentations, such as learning to use the 3D printers, and non-technical presentations, such as pitching ideas.
“Our hope is that if we have general students coming in to these workshops, we can show them the rest of this space such that they might become a member and develop their own products or prototype in the studio,” Campbell, ArtSci ‘17, said.
3D printers are among the tools available through SparQ Studios (Photo by Anna Maria Li).
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