SFU is in a new _space

Lisa Papania, Ph.D. ( far right) with students at _Space, the makers’s space at SFU’s Surrey campus. | Photo courtesy of SFU

Business of Design students and faculty at Simon Fraser University have carved out a makerspace leading students to make more than just connections in the classroom and hopefully reaching people across the Lower Mainland.

The Business of Design program is a very young, year-long program that began in the fall of 2016. According to the program’s website, “The program is for you if…you want to make a positive impact in the world through sustainability.”

_Space for sustainability

This initiative is described by co-director of the Business of Design program, Lisa Papania,Ph.D. as “the prototype before the prototype of what a space could be.” Since 2007 she has been looking for ways to bring practical craftsmanship to her business classes. As Papania explains, “the focus that I’ve always had, besides understanding the value of work, is also on sustainability… you can’t keep pushing the price of products down and expect those things not to negatively impact the environment.”

The push for a makerspace

Efforts to advance these ideas were initially thwarted. This was because workstations and makerspaces were restricted to students of specific faculties, whether it was in fine arts, interactive art and technology or communications, art and technology. Business students were left to borrow space where they could. This would not have been possible without the collaboration of students and faculty from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. This was a collaborative effort, namely City studio, an initiative that presented students with real life problems facing different groups in Vancouver. The program was offered by both SFU and Emily Carr in partnership with the City of Vancouver. As connections with Emily Carr grew, especially with Theunis Snyman of Basic Design, he opened his space in Maker Labs to SFU business students in 2014.

The students are the future

At SFU’s Surrey campus, room 190B (which is 1800 sq. ft) has become a space unrestricted by the divisions of different faculties where anyone is able to make a positive impact. Students, teachers and entrepreneurs from different backgrounds in SFU and beyond have created a space that is all-encompassing. It works as a workshop, meeting area or to fit the needs of any of its occupants at the time they require it. It is driven by students of the Business of Design cohort program, specifically those from the fall 2017 program. Jay Tseng, Benta Cheng and Henry Lin are some of the students involved in making _Space a reality at the Surrey campus. By meeting with leaders and stakeholders from SFU, including student groups, student society members and the wider community, these students were able to create a space that brings people together in a creative and productive way.

“Our goal is to help students to explore their passion and also to turn any concept into reality,” says Lin.

At the heart of _Space and all that has been achieved are the students who’ve been in charge of moving the SFU physical maker strategy forward. Jay Tseng, one of the Business of Design students integral to _Space told SFU’s Beedie School of Business, “We believe that our space is not just a makerspace but a design space, art space, social space, start-up space, inspirational space and so much more. When people use our space, they will naturally define what this space is to them.”

It is also all in the name. _Space is a makerspace, a study space, and a creative space that joins a growing number of collaborative workspaces across Vancouver that are designed to be interdisciplinary and interactive. This expands what it means to work with people of different backgrounds and expertise and allows a space for it. There are big plans for a _Space and places like it, says Papania. “We want to create a makerspace and a maker’s experience that feeds into those other [makerspaces across the Lower Mainland],”she adds.

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