Research and creativity on display at the first VIP/Maker showcase

Amanda and Meagan Boll in the MakerLab.
Life in the MakerLab: students worked on a device to help a recent graduate and medical student Meagan Boll (left) hold a stethoscope more easily. Photo Patrick Sweeney.

Reading about cool projects is one thing. Seeing them up close and interacting with the people who made them is another altogether. That’s the opportunity offered by VIP-Con, the VIP/Maker Showcase 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14.

The showcase will take place in the College of Innovation and Design on the second floor of Albertson’s Library.

The event is the first to mesh Vertically Integrated Projects – classes in which students work with faculty on research and community projects – and the MakerLab – the creative space in Albertsons Library that offers equipment including 3D printers, CNC Mills, sewing machines, soldering irons, and other tools for students and faculty.

“VIP-Con will give students a chance to display their cutting edge research,” said Amy Vecchione, an associate professor and head of Emerging Technologies and Experiential Learning at Albertsons Library who runs the MakerLab. “Courses like VIPs give students the chance to work with individuals in other majors in a highly interdisciplinary environment.”

Eighteen projects will be on display. They range from Books in Every Home, in which students raise money to buy books for low-income and refugee students and work directly with teachers and children, to NASA S.U.I.T.S. (Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students), in which a Boise State team created software for an augmented reality helmet-based display for astronauts, to Plant-Soil Interactions in a Changing World, in which students study how the loss of biodiversity impacts ecosystems and the interactions between plants and soil microbes.

Lowell Welburn, a mechanical engineering major, will debut his independent project, Little Wolf, a 3D-printed robotic recreation of the human body that moves thanks to motors attached to its limbs. Welburn named his creation after googling his first name and finding that “Lowell” derives from a diminuitive form of the Anglo-Norman French word for wolf. Welburn didn’t grow up with 3D printers, but found them at the MakerLab and got hooked. He spends hours in the lab each week and anticipates using his new-found design skills one day in the mechanical engineering field.

Lowell Welburn with his device.
Lowell Welburn with Little Wolf, a model of the human body he created with 3D printers and small motors. Photo provided by Lowell Welburn.

Other projects on display will include work by students in Make It!, the VIP class that works with clients in the community to design and build prosthetic devices and more. Kylee Lopshire, a theater major, refined an iPhone holder/controller to help her grandmother hold an iPhone. Eldin Evans, an interdisciplinary studies major, designed improved grips for walkers and handles for inhalers. Simon Alexander, a materials science and engineering major, studied the MakerLab itself.

“Since its inception, the MakerLab at Boise State University has been striving to make creating more accessible and more welcoming to students,” said Alexander. “My project’s goal is to poll the student body and find out how much they know about the MakerLab and to explore the students themselves as creators, with the hopes that the MakerLab can grow and improve its accessibility to students, faculty and staff.”

The humanities will be well-represented through projects like Open Pathways that created free educational materials for Chinese language instruction and the Shared Stories Lab. The VIP class is creating an oral history database to share the stories of Boise State students, faculty and staff centered on the factors that brought them to Boise State. The stories will one day be available to the public, part of the digital archive at Albertsons Library. Students have spent the past semester refining their interview techniques, delving into the ethical questions involved in the interview process and honing their active listening skills, said Tiffany Hitesman, a lecturer in the Department of English who helped create the class.

VIP-Con, she said, “has been a good incentive for us to keep moving forward. We will show evidence of the work we’re doing. It’s such a valuable skill to actively hear peoples’ stories and understand what it means just to listen to someone – not listening to reply to them – just listening.”

Like all of the showcase participants, the Shared Stories Lab is actively recruiting students for the upcoming semester.

Showcase projects:

Audio Signal Processing; NASA Microgravity: team NASA Suits; Shared Stories Lab; Portable Secure Devices; Informatics Skunkworks; Computing Across Campus; VARScent; Autonomous Robotic Systems; Make It!; Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship; Plasma Medicine & Agriculture; Pathways Open Education Resources. Team: Chinese Teaching Materials; Bio-Innovations; Plant Soil Interactions; Books in Every Home; UX Research Lab

  • Once again, the showcase takes place from 4-6 p.m. on Nov. 14 in the College of Innovation and Design on the second floor of Albertson’s Library.

– Story by Anna Webb