Words by Ashton Vogelhuber
Photos by Sam Karam

Jeff Jones, the outreach program officer, used a laser cutter to create a sign with the Spark Innovation logo.

The Spark Innovation Studio teaches students how to use industrial equipment.

Kent State’s Spark Innovation Studio trains students, faculty and staff to use industrial printing and cutting equipment.

Spark, located in Room 191-192 in the Schwartz Center, features a makerspace and a project studio space.

Kristy Bores, a senior majoring in computer engineering technology and a student consultant, refers to the makerspace with the equipment as a “clean space.” She thinks of the project studio as more of a “dirty space” for the messier activities.

“We’ve had students do concrete molds,” Bores says. “One group was brewing a type of kombucha that’s used to make a plastic.”

According to makerspaces.com, a makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high-tech to no-tech tools.

Makerspaces are also known as fablabs, hackerspaces or techshops. These spaces can contain high-end technology, such as 3-D printers, or simple technology like Legos and art supplies.

Spark offers a variety of tech to use. The studio has two 3-D printers, a vinyl and laser cutter, a garment printer and a CNC router (a computer-controlled cutting machine).

The Flashforge Dreamer 3-D printer creates 3-D models from a plastic material and the Form 2 3-D printer produces 3-D models from a liquid resin material.

The TITAN 2 vinyl cutter generates graphics, logos and more from vinyl materials. The Full Spectrum P-Series 45w laser cutter cuts and etches different woods and plastics.

Using a cartridge-based ink system, the Viper2 garment printer is used for direct-to-garment printing. The X-Carve CNC router carves in fine detail and complex curves in wood, plastic, metal and other materials.

“Students that want to use some of the equipment have to go through three different levels of badging,” Bores says.

He says the first level of badging allows access to sharp tools in the studio. The second level will grant access to power tools like drills and soldering guns. Each of these levels can be passed in 10-15 minutes.

“Once they’ve achieved those levels of badging, they can be badged on each machine individually,” Bores says.

To do this, documentation is read over and a walk-through with a student consultant is needed.

Jeff Jones, the outreach program officer, or a student consultant is available to answer questions during studio hours.

Jones plans to set up workshops in upcoming months to get more people into the studio and instruct them on how to use the equipment.

He says about 40 students use the space per month. The Spark of Innovation Studio is used most during times of big projects or when students are taught to use the machines. Jones says he enjoys interacting with the students to help them learn how to utilize these machines.

“Come in and check out our facilities,” Jones says. “Let’s see what type of problems we can solve together.”

Spark is open Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ashton Vogelhuber is the technology reporter for The Burr.