Open Lab opens doors to new skills for Pitt students to cultivate

Whether it’s a last-minute Christmas present, a special school project, or a few hours to relax in virtual reality, the Open Lab is equipped to help students in their endeavors.

There are currently two labs open on campus, one on the first floor of the Hillman Library and one in the basement of the Alumni Hall. The Open Lab located in the Alumni Hall is part of the Teaching and Learning Centerand the Hillman site laboratory is a collaboration of the Center and the University library system.

Aaron Graham, the director of the Open Lab Makerspace, said the goal of the space is to promote a comprehensive learning environment through a number of resources, including virtual reality, 3D printing, laser cutting and vinyl engraving. Graham said they are also looking to add sewing resources to the space.

“Our mission is to support teaching and learning at the University,” Graham said. “We provide training resources and equipment to students, faculty and staff.”

Jess FitzPatrick, director of the Digital Storytelling and Interactive Design major and lecturer in the English department, is a frequent visitor to the labs. She thinks the labs have been very useful for DNID majors, as they provide them with various technologies to explore the world.

“DNID is a combination of the School of Computer Science and the English Department for students who are genuinely interested in experiences and careers that deal with building the world through writing and coding,” said FitzPatrick. “We have three types of streams – game design, critical creation, and online media, and the open lab supports all of these streams.”

FitzPatrick believes Open Labs improves the quality of the courses she teaches, enabling students and staff to work collaboratively.

“Now, when I am able to bring courses for full class visits, the best thing is to work collaboratively with the people running the open lab to design learning objectives that take full advantage of what ‘they have,” FitzPatrick said.

John Blair | senior photographer

FitzPatrick said this collaborative learning style makes various resources available to his lab classes, allowing students to better understand the content they are learning.

“If we’re in a storytelling and technology class, and we’re talking about virtual reality and how immersive media challenges the way we construct a story, bringing a class together and listing different titles in different genres that they’re going to experience and then talk about those experiences as a player and an audience,” FitzPatrick said.

Graham also said the lab supports “a whole range of different things,” including English, language, classics, and art classes. He added that although the technology may seem daunting for a beginner, there are plenty of staff ready to help.

“It’s really about the vision that people bring with the resources that we have here,” Graham said.

Graham said the Open Lab can support any major, even the ones you’d never think you’d need.

“So, for example, we have language classes coming in, and they’re using Google Earth VR to travel to places like Russia,” Graham said. “And then they’re, like, you know, walking around Moscow, using their vocabulary to describe things that they see in these group settings, it’s really cool.”

Graham also said that while much of the work done in the lab is academic, that’s not the space’s sole purpose.

“We do this not only for class-related projects, but also for personal projects,” Graham said. “We believe that teaching happens inside and outside the classroom. We have people who come and use VR for class projects, but we also have people who come to use it for fun.

One of the people who used the space for a personal project is Dan Kaple, digital creation specialist at the Center for Teaching and Learning. He scans family photos as keepsakes.

“I have boxes of old negatives and boxes of old family photos, and I just slowly went through the process of scanning all of those, then putting them on several hard drives and distributing them to all members of my family,” he said. .

FitzPatrick said makerspaces are a great opportunity for students to learn without financial or technical barriers.

“I think having creative spaces like the Open Lab where students and faculty and staff can go and just try things and learn things and don’t have to worry about economic barriers or technical skill barriers, indicates one of the most positive values ​​about us as an educational institution and as a community,” she said.