Meet the Makers of Gulf Coast Maker & Comic Con 2018: iLab

For the last five years, St. Petersburg College-Seminole campus has hosted Pinellas Comic & Maker Con, led by SPC’s Innovation Lab, or iLab.  During that same period, Eureka! Factory has organized Gulf Coast Maker Con  and both groups frequented, promoted and supported each other’s events.  In 2017, for different reasons, both of us took a break, and then decided to join forces this year and going forward, and in the finest maker spirit of collaboration and fun,  together host the area’s largest Maker & Comic festival, now known as Gulf Coast Maker & Comic Con!

So this year we kick off our Meet the Maker series with the best event partner anyone could ever have, Chad Mairn, director of iLab. Without further ado, please Meet our partner Maker of Gulf Coast Maker & Comic Con.

GCMCC: Who are you and what do you make?

Chad Mairn with students at iLab

The Dennis L. Jones Community Library is a joint-use facility in collaboration with the St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus and the City of Seminole.  A unique feature of our library is our Innovation Lab (iLab), which is a collaborative learning environment, oftentimes referred to as a “technology playground” or makerspace, that is open to the public. The iLab is where people of all ages and with common interests (e.g., science, technology, engineering, digital arts, and math — STEAM) can meet, socialize and/or collaborate while sharing innovative ideas and learning new skills.  The iLab offers a variety of resources, including a growing list of emerging technologies, books, magazines, hands-on workshops, and interesting people with a variety of skills and experiences to share. What does the iLab have?  Here is a list.

The iLab, in partnership with the SPC Seminole Campus Engineering Club, built a drone that includes a GoPro video camera. Oh, and it works! We are now testing our 3D-printing tactile graphing project for blind students. And, we are also in the final stages of building our own rep-rap 3D printer, which may turn into a 2D printing machine instead (maybe even a sewing machine that follows G-Code instructions), but we will see what happens after we get through some of our technical challenges. Look for an article highlighting our lessons learned in Computers in Libraries magazine.

In early 2017, the Innovation Lab was awarded three St. Petersburg College Foundation Innovation Grants. They are titled ‘Microsoft HoloLens: Holographic Enhanced Learning’, ‘Graphs and Geometry: Engaging and Illustrating Mathematics with 3D Printing’, and ‘Virtual Reality: A Renaissance.’

To learn more about the iLab check out Demco’s Ideas + Inspiration article “The St. Petersburg College Innovation Lab: A Technology Playground for the Community.”

 GCMCC: Why do you believe iLab is  important?

It is all about sharing experiences and providing people with opportunities to learn. Inside the iLab, there are no judgements, no grades, and it is encouraged to color outside the lines and to make beautiful mistakes. In October 2015, the iLab received a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from the Walt Disney Company in collaboration with ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children to expand their successful Maker Boot Camp workshop series that helps “promote exploration and discovery for children ages 6 to 14.” The Maker Boot Camp works with adults and teenagers too!  Imagination and originality, flexibility, decision-making, communication and self-expression, collaboration, and motivation are the critical components of creativity that the Maker Boot Camp with support from the Curiosity Creates Grant has integrates into their curriculum. The iLab has offered Video Game Design, Robotics, 3D Design/Printing, Circuitry/Electronics, Virtual Reality, Drone, Video/Audio Editing, and Sewing workshops and have many other education opportunities currently in the works. Every workshop is free! The Maker Boot Camp documentary can be watched here.

What inspires you?

Sharing interesting things, like mixed reality technologies, and giving people a change to explore something they have never experienced before inspires me.  It keeps me always looking out to find something new to share with my community. The main objective of our Maker Boot Camp series and other workshops is for people to have a better understanding of how things work around them and to learn how to creatively and computationally solve problems in their professional and personal lives. They also discover how these emerging technologies interweave into just about every part of our society.

And, being able to work with people to bring their ideas to life inspires me. One example is this 3D-printed tablet clip for a stretcher that was created by a Sunstar paramedic.

GCMCC: What will iLab be showcasing at GCMCC?

There will be several iLab tours, so people can come experience firsthand what the iLab has to offer. Some highlights will be our HoloLens, HTC Vive, littleBits circuit kits, our oscilloscope and much more.

GCMCC: Why do you believe Gulf Coast Maker & Comic Con is important?

Do it yourself (DIY) culture is becoming very popular and it is interesting to see what people are able to make these days with the tools that are widely available to them. My kids may not become engineers, for example, but having a basic understanding of how things work in today’s society will give them an advantage in the future. Going to events like this one and visiting library makerspaces etc. can provide an initial spark that may grow into a large intellectual flame down the road and that is exciting!

Stay connected to the Innovation Lab at http://spcilab.tumblr.com/ or at https://www.facebook.com/groups/spcilab/.


Come check out iLab and all the great Makers and Comic Con exhibits and demos we’ll have on hand throughout the day at Gulf Coast Maker & Comic Con March 24!  General admission tickets are FREE! And there are a variety of options for exhibitors. Click the image below to save your spot today!

Get your tickets or reserve your booth today!

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