New arts and engineering suite helps Fayette students build upon creativity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus is using innovative technology to enhance students’ creativity with the opening this fall of a hub for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) in its Eberly Building.

The third floor of the building now serves as an engineering and arts suite of four traditional classrooms, one arts classroom, one computer lab, two electrical engineering technology labs that simulate industrial environments, and a lab housing six 3-D printers.

Charles Patrick, chancellor and chief academic officer at Fayette, said project architects went for the “wow factor” in designing the space, which will serve to recruit high school students when they visit campus.

“It’s more than teaching classes — it’s a showpiece,” he said. “The campus and Penn State wanted to make an investment to enhance our engineering and arts offerings. It is very important to us to continue providing quality programs that will yield quality graduates to enter into the workplace.” 

Nate Bohna, associate teaching professor of engineering at the Fayette campus, championed for the new learning space, which cost $480,000 and was funded by Capital Renewal.

"For engineers, [3-D printing] is almost going to be a required skill: being able to design, think, and use 3-D space, and 3-D printing is just a fun way for them to develop the skills of 3-D designers,” Bohna said.

Beyond engineering, faculty at Fayette are finding other uses for 3-D printing.

New this semester is an honors art course Bohna created.

"It's very much centered on students exploring their own unique ideas of what they want to do with 3-D printing,” Bohna explained about his ART 100 Seminar in the Arts course.

Students worked on one project where they created a figure that combined a 3-D likeness of their own head with the body of an action figure or superhero.

Art professor Patrick Daugherty said the art department is also making use of a dry erase board in the suite that doubles as a projector screen. This allows pictures to be drawn using dry erase markers to show composition and perspective. “This is a major improvement over a laser pointer,” he said. 

Daugherty is looking to incorporate 3-D printing into his ART 10 Introduction to Design course. He sees two potential benefits: One would be using 3-D printing as an abstract object to get his students to think about textures and 3-D. The second use would be as a pragmatic application for 3-D design, such as the creation of improvements to useful everyday objects.

Each opportunity for students to develop their creativity gives them an advantage in the workplace, Daugherty said, as that is a skill employers are seeking. 

The nursing department has expressed interest in using the space for a new class focusing on the biomedical applications of 3-D printing, such as prosthetics and implants. In addition, Bohna has been working with biology faculty to scan and print samples for anatomy courses, including bones.

Bohna said that he and other members of the Fayette community hope to expand the suite into a makerspace. This would encompass a variety of 3-D printers, along with more maker application like littleBits and other forms of robotics.

For years, Bohna said engineering students have worked with Lego robotics. "This fits it all together,” he said. “I can see this all brought together into a more broad and more creative makerspace environment.”