Collaboratory grand opening

Virtual reality headsets, controllers and laptops; 3D-printers; laser cutters; power tools and supplies for collaborative work. These are just some of the resources available to students, faculty and staff at the newly opened Collaboratory at the University of Washington Bothell.

Dr. David Socha, associate professor in the School of STEM, helped design the renovation of a smaller facility called Makerspace that had focused predominately on the actual making of innovative items. The purpose of the new Collaboratory is not just to make things but, more importantly, to support collaboration among cross-disciplinary teams.

Students pursuing individual projects will be working alongside student groups innovating with industry and community partners. “It will be a great meeting place for students and should be especially beneficial for group and capstone projects,” said Jesus Govela, Collaboratory manager. “In addition to all the cool equipment, there are also whiteboards, TVs that connect to laptops and other tools that make working with others more efficient.”

Banner of Collaboratory grand opening
Banner of Collaboratory grand opening

Wide range of opportunities

The Makerspace opened in 2015. Popular from the start, it outgrew its original location and plans began for an expansion. Remote operations during the pandemic allowed for unimpeded construction, which began last August. The new space at 2,000 square feet is twice the size of the original, has an upgraded ventilation system and distinct areas for both creating and meeting.

“Before, people were in one big room with the machines, and it could get pretty noisy. Now, however, the machines have a separate room which provides a more focused space for people to work on projects,” Socha said.

He hopes the Collaboratory will provide opportunities for first-year students to work with juniors and seniors, and for students in different disciplines to come together, bringing with them their different backgrounds and strengths. “When people with different perspectives come together to solve a problem, it often leads to some of the most innovative outcomes,” he said.

Recognizing that many UW Bothell students engage in complex research and projects, an oversight committee will serve as a resource to students. “This could look like assisting students with their budget if they are working on research grants or offering advice on navigating contracts if they are contributing to a community- or industry-based project,” Socha said.

A facility worth celebrating

Noah Christensen, STEM junior
Noah Christensen, STEM junior

The Collaboratory had its grand opening on Feb. 8 and 9, 2022, and already, collaboration was evident. A group of mechanical engineering students came on the first day to kick-start their class project — a new and improved version of Hungry Hungry Hippo, a game that uses toy hippos to “eat” as many marbles as possible.

Noah Christensen, a junior in the School of STEM, said their goal is “to increase a player’s control of the hippo by steering it forward, backward or side-to-side. We also plan to get the hippo’s mouth to open wider than the traditional game’s design.”

Rebecca Sasten, STEM junior
Rebecca Sasten, STEM junior

Rebecca Sasten, who is also a junior in STEM, said the group’s idea came from nostalgia. “We all loved that game as kids and thought it would be fun to recreate it as adults,” she said. “Thanks to the Collaboratory and its equipment, that is now possible.”

Faculty and staff also attended the two-day event to learn about how they could use the space for research and work with both students and community partners. The opening included tours of the equipment, workshops on using the 3D-printers and laser cutters, creative contests, and demonstrations of virtual reality experiences.

Transforming student ideas

2-foot tall model rocketship
The 2-foot model rocket ship created with Collaboratory equipment

Govela is excited to see what students will come up with in this new space. Even before the renovation, students had built a 2-foot model rocket ship, a simple yet functional calculator and, his personal favorite, a stormtrooper helmet, among many other items.

“The possibilities are endless — if you can come up with the idea, chances are we have what you need to make it,” he said.

“My thanks go to all the faculty, staff and partners who worked so hard on this renovation,” added Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Sharon A. Jones. “It’s a beautiful, functional space that will serve our students and their innovations well. I can’t wait to see the results of their career-connected collaborations.”

Jesus Govella presenting at the grand opening
Jesus Govella, Collaboratory manager, presenting at the grand opening
Dr. Kristin Esterberg, UW Bothell chancellor, taking part in the grand opening
Chancellor Kristin Esterberg attended the Collaboratory grand opening on Feb. 9
Jesus Govella and Kara Adams examining items made with 3D printers
Jesus Govela, Collaboratory manager, shows Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Sharon A. Jones (l) and Kara Adams, director of community engagement, a 3D-printed figurine of a Pokémon species

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