North Texas Daily

The Factory inspires innovative students from all fields of study

The Factory inspires innovative students from all fields of study

September 16
18:36 2017

In a mysterious nook of Willis Library, a cave of creativity brimming with high-tech, machine-like gadgets shines bright. Although the location is understated, this space is a distinct outlet of innovation.

If UNT students are searching for a maker’s space, they need to look no further than the Factory, located in room 138 on the first floor of the library.

Gina Chakour, an anthropology and applied behavior analysis senior, works at the Factory. She admits that the size of the Factory is inconvenient in regards to the amount of equipment they have, but it hasn’t stopped visionary creators from finding their designated area.

Chakour said the concept of a maker’s space is an “interdisciplinary sandbox,” where people from varying curriculum gather to learn and synthesize projects. No matter one’s field of study or skill level, everyone is welcome.

“People get out of this space what they put into it,” Chakour said. “English majors can make their own video games if they wanted to.”

The Factory provides computer-programed sewing machines, laser cutters, 3-D printers, virtual reality, robotics, soldering and more to gratify nearly anyone’s passion or interest. It also allows students to check out equipment for seven days, including audio and mixing tables, camera equipment and green screens.

Visual art studies senior Devin Howell also works at the Factory. Howell plans to become an art teacher and said she has utilized multiple tools within The Factory to influence her artistic abilities.

Howell also feels she will be able to bring the skills she has learned from working at the Factory to the classroom.

“I started coming here a semester or two ago, and I really had no idea what it was,” Howell said. “Some people come in here when they’re wanting to work [within] their majors, but they find other things they can work on after they’ve been in here.”

Even though there are multiple pieces of complicated and unique equipment available, no prior knowledge is required. Students can come in, and the employees will show them a step-by-step process on how to use the equipment.

The most popular attraction is 3-D printing. Students and the community can print their own 3-D models for $2.50 an hour.

The Factory hosts workshops as well. In Discovery Park, the Factory provides hands-on equipment that is considered supplementary. Soldering, which is done by melting metal, is a very popular feature.

The employees of the Factory are currently developing methods for students to be able to track their skills, which is helpful for students who frequent the Factory often.

Computer science and mathematics freshman Scott Stenger has been coming to the Factory every day since the first day of school. When he learned about all the Factory had to offer during freshman orientation, it sounded like “the stuff of legends” to him.

He has fiddled with almost every piece of equipment available since then.

Stenger considers the Factory his hangout spot and a great way to pass the time between his classes.

“I’ve come in here for a variety of reasons,” Stenger said. “At one point, I tried to fix a pair of headphones I had by using the soldering iron.”

Judy Hunter is the director and operations manager of the Factory. Hunter works in the UNT information technology department, and her vast experience has made her a fantastic fit for running such an advanced accommodation.

“I am the only person I know of that’s supporting programable sewing machines and 3-D printers,” Hunter said.

In 2014, Hunter and her team were given a small budget to pursue the idea of the Factory. Eventually, they received a full grant in 2016 from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Chakour believes that students should utilize the Factory as if it were any part of the library. Although the facility is tucked away, students of all majors shouldn’t feel shy to come explore.

“I have a great team of students working here,” Hunter said. “Between them and myself, we have to delve in and figure out how to support some of this technology because we are the only ones on campus who have it.”

Featured Image: Equipment in the Factory allows students to expand their creativity in uncommon ways. The Factory is located in Willis Library in room 138. Photo courtesy of Justin Vent

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Anna Orr

Anna Orr

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