The staff running the new Student Innovation Centre hope students will use it to work on extracurricular projects, and not their coursework.
The Student Innovation Centre is a collaborative workspace that recently opened in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS). In an effort to facilitate self-directed learning beyond the classroom, it offers undergraduate students the opportunity to work on various extracurricular projects, competitions, and student ventures.
The centre offers several resources for students such as bookable rooms, writable surfaces, moving tables, and high-performing computing stations. The centre also has virtual reality equipment such as an HTC Vive Pro and a HoloLens.
Construction of the centre began in August 2017. Its grand opening was on September 21.
Chris Fetterly, director of the Student Innovation Centre, explained that the inspiration for the centre was outgoing dean of science Jonathan Schaeffer’s vision of fostering a creative environment to unite people from all programs.
“This was his vision,” Fetterly said. “He wanted a place in (the faculty of science) where students can come together from all faculties around projects, where they can build and do interesting things.”
The centre uses resources and equipment that already exist in the faculty of science. This would include The Shack, which is similar to a maker space, providing diverse tools such as 3D printers and computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines which use software to cut various materials such as wax and plastic.
“The notion of the centre is that it’s like a hub and spoke,” Fetterly said. “If you’re using this facility you can leverage some of the resources that exist in the faculty of science at large to build [on] your own ideas.”
According to Fetterly, the Student Innovation Centre was built to address certain needs, including supporting student innovators at the faculty of science and in the U of A as a whole, connecting students to Edmonton’s innovation ecosystem at large, “demystifying entrepreneurship,” and encouraging national and international competition.
“The Student Innovation Centre is the culmination of a shared vision on campus that student competitions, ventures, and maker projects are all among the deepest forms of learning and personal development,” Fetterly said. “It was built to grow creative confidence in our students and enhance the support structure to develop ideas to real-world impact.”
Fetterly added that the Student Innovation Centre is different from a library or any other study space. Instead of coursework, Fetterly said the centre is primarily focused on extracurricular learning.
“We take the stance now that we actually don’t want you to do your studying here,” he said. “This is very different than the nature of the library.”
Unlike other spaces, the Student Innovation Centre offers workshops such as “Idea to Prototypes,” “Building a Good Conversation,” and “Tools and Tactics,” which teach students how to develop prototypes of their ideas through specific planning, communicate their ideas effectively, and learn productivity and life hacks, respectively.
Students may book a space by emailing the Student Innovation Centre with a description of their project.
As this is a new development, Fetterly said students now have the chance to experiment with their ideas and achieve tangible results.
“This is a very exciting time,” Fetterly said. “Take the time to appreciate and value your own ideas because they do have value. Come into the Student Innovation Centre and we will help you explore those ideas.”