Creativity reaches another dimension

An Ultimaker 3D printer is seen at Stony Brook Univesity's iCreate lab on Thursday, July 25, 2019. The iCreate lab is a part of Stony Brook University and students can use the latest technologies to make their imaginative ideas a tangible reality. Photo by Toni Gallo.
An Ultimaker 3D printer at Stony Brook’s iCreate lab on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Photo by Toni-Elena Gallo.)

Hidden away in one of Stony Brook’s oldest buildings lies a modern technological marvel.

Students and faculty alike come to iCreate, a “maker space” on steroids. Some of the program’s more popular machines are its 3D printers, laser cutters, and embroidery machines.

The only draw bigger than the machines is the creative freedom given to students by iCreate Director David Ecker. One of Ecker’s main goals for iCreate is allowing students expression and creativity beyond the standard classroom learning.

“We support the students in their creative projects and their class projects and anything else they want to do to try to experiment and develop their next level of ideas,” said Ecker. “We try to support them so that even though they may fail that they can still succeed and fail forwards in what they’re trying to do.”

iCreate, originally called Research Technologies, was created about 6 years ago when Ecker was tasked with repurposing an empty classroom. With nothing but a $1,500 grant and his own determination, he started this small program with one sewing machine and one 3D printer.

Today, iCreate boasts an impressive collection of four rooms containing around ten 3D printers, a multimedia engraving machine, two laser cutters, and a silk press, among many others. Several of the rooms are undergoing reservations, and Ecker has plans to build a video setup in one of the renovated rooms.

A student uses the iCreate lab's laser cutter to make a project, on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Photo by Toni Gallo.
A student uses the iCreate lab’s laser cutter to make a project, on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Photo by Toni-Elena Gallo)

The space is open to all students, including students of all experience levels, regardless of year or field of study.

“We are trying to reach out to all majors. We want people to know they don’t have to be a STEM student to use this space.” said Phoebe Fornoff, a business major and student staff member of iCreate.

Not only do all students have access to iCreate, but some, like Phoebe, have the opportunity to become Student Staff members. iCreate is staffed by about 40 students in addition to Ecker. The students are divided into teams with specific roles, such as keeping track of the materials for a type of machine, running training programs for the machines, and running the website, among others. Additionally, use of the iCreate complex is entirely free of charge.

Students use iCreate for a multitude of projects. Often students can be found working on anything from schoolwork to technology to fun personal projects. The many whiteboards adorning the iCreate rooms are open to use for anything from solving complex equations to designing a level in a game. Students have made cosplay costumes, castle replicas, robots, and many other interesting creations throughout iCreate’s history.

The innovative space is about more than just creativity. It’s about bringing people together and helping them collaborate with each other to make their ideas even better.  “I think that one of the most important things iCreate teaches is the ability to have your ideas, but also to share them with others,” said frequent iCreate user and physics major Marcellus. “Too many times, the college environment is very self-focused, and what iCreate does is really try to stress teamwork, to get that collaboration going.”

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