3D printers, a vinyl cutter, an industrial sewing machine, a laser cutter/engraver, and software such as Google SketchUp and Autodesk Fusion 360 are some of the equipment that can be found within the Makerspace at the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter), located at 21 Madbury Road.
Operated by student volunteers, the Makerspace is a place where all UNH students are encouraged to use the equipment to create anything from personal and academic projects to prototypes. It’s described by the ECenter website as a workshop used to fabricate tools and equipment, as well as a community of “makers.”
“What’s amazing is how the space creates energy, excitement and enthusiasm the moment a person walks into the ECenter,” ECenter Director Ian Grant said. “On average, it takes about seven seconds for someone to say ‘I already love the ECenter. This is amazing. Can I work on my ideas down here?’”
“Creativity requires space that engages,” Grant said. “From the color scheme, to the furniture, to the bonus of project lockers, Idea Connection Board, and the now famous Caffeinator Coffee Bar serving Nitro brew coffee, we wanted a space for students from all over campus to know is theirs to use on their ideas, innovation and entrepreneurial projects.”
Grant explained that the biggest difference between both the Makerspace and the ECenter from any other building on the UNH campus is that you will find artists, engineers, lovers of the outdoors, athletes, musicians, finance, marketing and agriculture students all in one place doing the things that they love and know how to do.
According to Grant, it was over five years ago that Assistant Provost of Innovation Marc Sedam first came up with the idea to create UNHInnovation and have what is known as Tech Transfer/Intellectual Property, the InterOperability Lab, all of UNH’s external business relationships and the Entrepreneur Center all in one location. With an initial three-year period of funding from Peter T. Paul, the ECenter “came into being” in 2015 and Grant was hired in November of the same year. The ECenter opened its doors in its new building at Madbury Commons in January 2016.
Grant said that in spring 2016 there were over 2,000 students, faculty and alumni visits to the ECenter for usage of its resources, programs and space.
Happening this month at the ECenter is the university’s first-ever Hackathon event. According to Grant, during the competition, students will examine and analyze data sets related to the upcoming 2016 U.S. presidential elections in order to come up with insightful and interesting facts on demographics. Datawatch and IBM, who are sponsoring the event, will be donating free software to students including the IBM Watson Analytics software. The Hackathon will last 20-hours, starting on Friday, Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. and the judging will take place the following morning. The winning team will then get an all-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas for the IBM Watson Conference on the same day.
The ECenter’s “Power of E” logo can be seen on stickers scattered around campus. According to Grant, the “Power of E” incorporates all activities and marketing happening around campus that are tied to entrepreneurship. “It is designed to illustrate the full range of the ECenter as the hub of all things entrepreneurship at UNH,” Grant said. “Educate, engage, establish and expand.”
The ECenter also has a full presence on social media. It can currently be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Snapchat as they hope such online presence will raise awareness and engagement of students, faculty, staff and alumni.
The Faculty Fellows Program (ECFF) is a stipend-supported position through the ECenter that allows for faculty members to both support and drive engagement from students from all the respective colleges at UNH. According to Grant, faculty members were nominated by the deans in the primary five colleges, and those who were picked now work directly with him and the other members of leadership at the ECenter.
According to Grant, over $150,000 has been raised over the last year to strengthen current programs and create new ones for the ECenter. This is due in part by the expansion of the Wildcatalysts Network, which includes UNH alumni, friends and parents who contribute in ways such as financial support.