Skylab: a hidden gem at UWF

By Anna Smith
Staff writer

On the fifth floor of the John C. Pace Library at the University of West Florida, only accessible by elevator, is the Skylab.

The Skylab includes a computer lab, multimedia room and Makerspace. It is outfitted with the newest technology and experienced library staff ready to help.

“I love the Skylab. It’s a great place to work on homework and group projects” Taylor Hall, a UWF student, said.

Perhaps even more hidden than the Skylab itself is the Makerspace which includes a 3D printing lab and is open to all UWF students, faculty and staff.

“The Makerspace is like a STEAM program. It all comes together up here,” John Barksdale, the Skylab director, said.  “But this space is also for anyone to come. Not just the science majors. We want everybody to be exposed to this technology. I think this is one of the greatest resources for students on the campus and a lot them don’t realize it’s here or what a great resource it is. These are hands-on skills that many businesses need.”

The Makerspace hosts free classes where students can learn marketable career skills, such as Photoshop, InDesign and 3D printing. 

John Barksdale speaks to students Gavin Hall, Sylvester Way and Earl Simpson III during the 3D printing workshop in the Skylab. (Photos by Anna Smith)

Students, faculty and staff can try their hand at programs such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Sculptris.

“The students at UWF have a very unique opportunity to learn about 3D printing. Here at the Skylab, we train and assist students so they can learn the ins and outs of 3D printing,” Gavin Hall, a student-worker in the Skylab, said. “It is a very hands-on experience, geared towards education. What I hope students get from coming to the Skylab is the pure thrill of taking something from the abstract world and bringing it into the real world.”

Students who aren’t interested in creating their own designs can use open source sites such as Blender and Thingiverse, where they can download and print premade designs.

At 10 cents per gram, 3D printing is highly affordable and students can easily charge it to their Nautilus card as the Skylab does not accept cash or credit cards.

If a student is interested in using the 3D printing lab, they just need to watch a short video and take a quick quiz on the UWF library website. No appointment is necessary.

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A mini computer system that students can use to make a fully functioning computer system. (Photo by Anna Smith)

“The future is really big for 3D printing. It’s growing out of our little space here,” Barksdale said.“UWF is getting poised for a lot more capability with 3D printing, and we need this technology. We will always have our Makerspace up here. It’s all positive. We don’t feel like we are competing. The more opportunities for students the better.”

A new 2,000-square-foot building is in the works on the UWF campus and will feature new machines with a higher capacity for creating and printing.  

Contact John Barksdale at 857-6230 for more information about the Skylab.

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