The sustainable Makerspace providing wellbeing and skills
29 November 2022
Each month, at least 500 University of Canterbury (UC) students and staff visit Te Rua Makerspace in the central library, where Kairuruku Wāhi-auaha | Engagement and Learning Librarian Jessica Saul enthusiastically caters to different interests, skill levels, and needs.
Saul has won UC’s Protecting Our Planet sustainability award in recognition of her sustainable operating practices and focus on wellbeing. She has an impressive range of skills to share. She graduated with a Bachelor of Design Innovation majoring in Industrial Design from Victoria University of Wellington, equivalent to UC’s Product Design degree, and earned her master’s degree in designing wearable medical robotics.
“I was always in the workshop wanting to play with new equipment,” she says.
Saul also loves sewing, 3D printing, and sharing creativity and fun with all of UC’s community. She reuses materials as much as possible, which was noted in her award nomination.
“I’ve always been interested in sustainability. In high school l was an environmental leader, and I chose environmental science papers at university – although part of it is also thriftiness.”
Te Rua Makerspace is a large, airy room with 3D printers, sewing machines, a textile printing machine, a long table for drawing, a games area, and several pressing machines for making badges.
“It’s the community hub for creators from across the university, whether you are staff or a student, a new international student, a high-school student taking one paper at a time – we welcome everyone,” Saul says.
The makerspace has a schedule of classes and inductions, but also welcomes people to drop by to relax for a while; an option that’s particularly popular before exams.
“There is a lot of research about how being creative is really good for your wellbeing, so in the microcosm of the university, where the stress rate tends to be quite high even on a day-to-day basis and then peaks at times as well, we provide a classwork-free zone. Here we like to pretend that grades don’t exist.”
Saul sees the effects spending time in Te Rua Makerspace has on people. “I love the little impact that I can make on each individual’s day-to-day life. It’s amazing how a short time here can transform someone who comes in visibly stressed out and not ready to talk, but after 10 minutes of drawing or me saying ‘hey, would you like to just colour with me?’ they are ready to try another activity or talk about what’s stressing them.”
During the pre-exam period, Saul and her co-worker Ryan Dooley set up a large paddling pool filled with 1500 ball-pit balls so students could come in and relax. Sensory experiences are soothing, she says, and this may explain why the makerspace is particularly popular with neurodiverse students.
For those who want to learn new skills or improve existing ones, there are workshops, inductions, classes, and one-on-one sessions.
“A lot of things are so cool, like being able to print your own T-shirts, and 3D printing remains really popular. We even have sewing classes. Last term we had a series of Sewing 101 with learning how to fix holes and sew on buttons, the second one was hemming and the third one was basic tailoring and shaping shirts.
- Read more about UC’s sustainability awards 2022
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