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Johnson C. Smith Receives $100K Grant To Advance Innovation, Technology

Johnson C. Smith University
The Makerspace at Johnson C. Smith University.

Johnson C. Smith University has received a $100,000 federal grant to expand a space used to create products and collaborate with others on technological and entrepreneurial ideas. The grant is administered by the State Library of North Carolina.

The project is called “Making Space for Tech @ An HBCU.” JCSU’s space is set up in the James B. Duke Memorial Library on campus. University officials say the Makerspace program will help students and visitors gain proficiency in design and manufacturing technologies.

Credit Johnson C. Smith University
Students and others work on projects in the Makerspace area of the campus library. The school received a $100,000 federal grant to expand the space and buy new equipment.

The sky is the limit in terms of what users create, using the program’s 3D printers, laser cutters and other materials. Users can also receive help programming the laser cutters and the Makerspace’s other equipment, in addition to one-on-one consults on the best strategy to proceed with their ideas.

A university spokesperson said people have created items ranging from art pieces and prototypes for products they want to manufacture and sell, to jewelry, clothing, architectural projects and tents for homeless people. Students also come to the space to work on assignments, and take workshops on coding and the high-tech industry overall.

“This resource will allow Johnson C. Smith students to gain a competitive edge when entering the job market,” said Dr. Chantell McDowell, Makerspace project manager and instructional technology coordinator at JCSU. “The Makerspace will also provide an arena for research and innovation, which we believe will lead to an increase in faculty and student-based research campus-wide, and more effective research.”

McDowell described the Makerspace as a hands-on collaborative space where people can not only advance their technological ideas, but collaborate with others of the same mindset. Mondays and Wednesdays are designated co-working days, where users come to do just that—work on their projects and trade ideas while using the Makerspace’s equipment and materials.

“This is a time where entrepreneurs know they can come when there will be other like-minded people to trade ideas,” said McDowell. “The West side [of Charlotte] doesn’t have a lot of accessibility to something like this, so this is major for the community.”

University officials say the new funding will allow them to purchase more 3D printers and other advanced equipment, pay for digital fabrication and fund more coding classes.

“These federal funds are investments that help libraries deliver relevant and up-to-date services for their communities,” McDowell said. “It’s a whole movement beyond the education system that supports entrepreneurship and invites community makers into the university space.”

JCSU’s library was one of 39 of the competitive grants awarded to libraries around the state for fiscal year 2017-2018 from this year’s federal allotment of $4,428,172.