COOKEVILLE — Growing up, Robert Shelton liked the creative aspect of taking things apart and putting them back together. It wasn’t until his high school days that the Greeneville, Tenn. native realized he could put that creativity to work by majoring in mechanical engineering at Tennessee Tech.
“I chose Tennessee Tech based off of what people around me had said about Tech — that it is well-known for being a great engineering school,” said Shelton. “Mechanical engineering seemed to be a good overall, general scope of engineering, touching on a few different things. It seemed to be a well-rounded aspect of engineering.”
As an undergraduate student at Tech, Shelton worked in Tech’s iMakerSpace — a university-wide, student-centered space under the leadership of the Colleges of Engineering and Business that serves as the focal point on campus to provide training, service, partnership, research and evaluation in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) to all disciplines. He was able to let his creative juices flow by using the manufacturing tools and machines available in the iMakerSpace.
“The concept with the iMakerSpace is to provide an environment for students, number one, and then faculty and staff, number two, to get them in a place where they learn new things, do new things and fabricate new things course-work related or work related,” said Ismail Fidan, who is the director of iMakerSpace and a professor in manufacturing and engineering technology. “What we try to do is get things done in a computer environment. A student or faculty and staff can build what they want. If they can’t, we have a manager who can help them.”
Shelton enjoyed his time in the iMakerSpace so much he now serves as the manager of the area while he works on a master’s degree. He oversees 15-20 student assistants while managing the day-to-day operations and maintaining the 3D printers so that students can use them every day if they need to.
“Working as a work-study student was a great transition to my current position,” said Shelton. “I think about that as I move forward because one of these students could be the next graduate assistant of this space. It’s important to attach what they are doing to that potential.”
Located on the third floor of the Volpe Library, the iMakerSpace helps students reach their creative potential by providing resources and knowledge to facilitate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship for all Tech students, faculty and staff. It is an environment supported by students from all disciplines and strives to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship into courses.
“Most majors have term projects or lab projects, and when the time comes to get it ready, the place we have here is a great place to help them create it,” said Fidan. “It’s a wonderful place, and we get a lot of good compliments. We still see some majors not utilizing this place like they could. Other than that, things are so-far, so-good.”
For more information on Tech’s iMakerSpace, go to https://www.tntech.edu/engineering/research/imakerspace/.