Amanda Baschnagel has begun a new role at Boise State as manager of the MakerLab. In some ways, her job is like a homecoming. As a student, she helped found the lab – home to 3D printers, soldering stations, a green screen for video and more – in 2014.
Baschnagel grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, and received her theater degree from Boise State in 2016. After graduating, she immersed herself in theater – locally as executive director and founder with two fellow Boise State graduates of the Campfire Theatre Festival (happening Sept. 6-8), and in Connecticut, working with the National Puppetry and National Music Theater conferences.
At the MakerLab, Baschnagel supervises the space, student employees and equipment, and looks for ways the lab can expand its community partnerships.
She told us more about her work.
Q. I’m curious about the National Puppetry Conference…
A. Each June, 100 puppeteers come to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut, to create multiple pieces. I got accepted to the conference and got to work with people who had puppeted characters on Sesame Street and The Muppets. Puppetry has an extensive history as a vehicle for social change with groups like Sesame Street doing outreach in developing countries to teach reading, and groups like The Bread and Puppet Theater, which was founded in the 1960s on New York City’s Lower East Side to support community causes. I had dabbled in puppetry before with the Homegrown Theatre in Boise and its annual Horrific Puppet Affair.
Q. What excites you most about your new position at Boise State?
A. A billion things. One thing that has been thrilling in the one month I’ve been here is the MakerLab’s work with St. Luke’s occupational therapists to design tools for people with accessibility needs. A recent project was working with Meagan Boll, who graduated several years ago in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She’s partially paralyzed from a vertebra injury and just started medical school at the University of Washington. We worked with Meagan to create tools to help her hold a stethoscope.
Q. What’s going on at the MakerLab that we should all know about?
A. A lot of people don’t know that anyone can come get trained. You just have to walk in and ask. We have a ton of tools and students who are eager to help, whether that’s with designing, or getting insight, or brainstorming.
Most people know about our 3D printers. But we also have a CNC that can cut wood, thin metal or other flat materials. We have a vinyl cutter and soldering iron and three sewing machines with high-end embroidery functions. We also have Arduinos, which are like small computers. If you’re building a costume and you need it to light up, you can tuck an Arduino right into the costume.
Q. What are some of the surprising collaborations you’ve seen at the lab?
A. We had this wonderful day where we had a very young user, an 11-year-old, come to the space to design a key ring. A faculty member was designing something he needed. The two struck up a hour-long conversation. They were learning from each other.
Q. How do you think your theatre background will benefit your work at the MakerLab?
A. Theatre artists are good at problem-solving because they are constantly tackling problems that have never been solved before. How do we get the witch to fly, or the teacup to dance? We’re going through the same process in the MakerLab. We approach every project with an interdisciplinary eye to solve problems from every angle.
I’m not a high-tech maker. I like a good pair of scissors. If you’re coming to me with one task, I might have a few solutions. And a student employee might have a few more.
The MakerLab is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Upcoming events include Let’s Talk: Design Your Own 3D Printed Map, where participants can gain skills to design and create a topographic map of a geographic region of their choosing.
Visit the MakerLab website: https://www.boisestate.edu/library-makerlab/
– By Anna Webb