I can remember the first time I heard the job title “Maker.” It was from a friend who referenced a man he knew who would make custom objects for a living.

“What!?” I asked, “you can make a living off of just making random things for people?”

To say I’m a handy person is an exaggeration of my actual skill, but most of my childhood was spent playing with Legos and building popsicle stick castles with hot glue cobwebs. My inner child squirmed at the idea of taking these little projects to the next level, so I bought a sketchbook and began to doodle every idea that popped into my head. Fueled by a Pinterest inspired mania of design ideas – I know, I’m shaking my head, too – the pages quickly filled up. With more than a little disappointment, I began to realize the limitations of my ability to create; equipment and materials aren’t cheap, especially for a college student.

Fortunately, I had the Deason Innovation Gym, SMU’s proud maker space. Located in the Caruth building of the Lyle School of Engineering, the innovation gym is a place for ALL students at SMU to design and create, regardless of major. The only thing between me and a wood shop, laser cutter, multiple 3D printers, a vinyl cutter and a Carvey – Google it if you don’t know what it is; it’s really cool – was a 45-minute safety course supplemented by orientations for each piece of equipment.

My first project was for a friend who found that the peephole in his apartment was a bit too high for him to reasonably reach.

“One of my friend’s joked that he could build me a periscope,” He laughed.

“I can build you a periscope!”

It wasn’t a simple project by any means, but the trained staff at the Deason Innovation Gym was there to help. After sketching my plans on paper, I was able to use Adobe Illustrator – conveniently available to me through Fondren Library computers – to create the design for the Innovation Gym’s laser cutter. After that, a little paint, wood glue and a few mirrors were all that it took to make my design a reality, all thanks to the materials and equipment provided to my by SMU.

With such a repertoire of tools and materials at my disposal, my only problem is finding the time to bring my designs into three dimensions. Good thing the Innovation Gym is open 24/7!

Stephen Chamberlain