It's no secret that one of the true highlights of my time at the University of Mary Washington was working with George Meadows of the College of Education and Rosemary Arneson in the library to build the ThinkLab Makerspace. There are few things that were able to spark and capture the imagination of such a broad audience as this simple machine did in 2012

MakerBot Thing-O-Matic

Some may criticize 3D printing as a solution in search of a problem, a gimmick at best. In the worst implementations I suppose I can understand the skepticism. But for me the true power was always in the ability not just to download and print a bracelet, but to show someone how they could truly make something their own. The ability to design and make physical something that exists in the digital still feels magical 6 years later.

One of our visions when we got our own office in addition to the coworking space and the video store was the idea of infusing some of that creative culture through a small makerspace, so with the time being right to renovate a small section of the office and Jim having a project with a need for it, I knew the first piece of equipment I wanted to get.

Ultimaker 3 3D Printer in the soon-to-be renovated CoLab Makerspace

I had reviewed several top lists and talked to a few trusted folks running spaces currently and all signs pointed to Ultimaker as the top brand to buy for reliability. They're not cheap, but they're workhorses and if the past week and a half is any indicator it lives up to all expectations.

Jim has already blogged the exciting developments of working through a project to build a 1-dimensional adventure game using an Arduino, LED lights, and a 3D printed enclosure and joystick. In addition to that project we've tested prints with low quality, high quality settings, even getting comfortable enough to go an entire weekend printing a high-quality vase.

Today Jim and I jumped on an episode of Reclaim Today to talk more about it all and to show the thing in action. During the episode it's printing brackets that would end up being mounted to the wall in Reclaim Video to display Laserdisc videos. It's a gorgeous and practical application marrying futuristic tech with the aesthetic of the past in very cool ways.

Over the coming weeks the space will be renovated with a fresh coat of paint and some construction work as well as new furniture with an eye towards making it a hub for creativity. We're calling it CoLab, an extension of CoWork, and we'll be partnering again with the College of Education as well as possibly a few other key folks to continue fostering a culture here in Fredericksburg of making. We've only just gotten started and it's already a blast so I can't wait to see what's possible as others join in the fun and help us build it.