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Library construction makes way for CATalyst Studios

Ericka Rios
At CATalyst studios where people sign in to use the machines.

After nearly a year of construction, the brand new maker space on the ground floor of the University of Arizona Main Library is finally complete and ready for student use.

Construction at the Main Library is a part of the Student Success District project started in May 2019. The new maker space CATalyst Studios officially opened its doors for students, faculty and the public in late January 2020.

According to the University Libraries website, CATalyst Studios is an expansion of the old iSpace that is now closed in the Science-Engineering Library.

Katherine Davis, a student is using a  sewing machine.
Katherine Davis, a student is using a sewing machine.

“iSpace is closed in the Science-Engineering Library and in the renovations we created a much bigger space and we renamed,” CATalyst Studios Director Jennifer Nichols said.

Nichols explained that CATalyst Studios was constructed at the Main Library because it gets more foot traffic from students than other library locations on campus.The CATalyst studio has spaces where students can study and do homework, white boards that students can use to work on problems and movable chairs and tables that easy to rearrange if people wanted to move them around.

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Old fashioned letter press
Old fashioned letter press

“I like this place. It is clean — it is really nice, there are boards everywhere and outlets are on every table,” said Luis Romero, a junior majoring in engineering at the UA.

It’s not just students who enjoy the new space and technology at CATalyst Studios.

“I like the sewing machines,” said Akila Mathis-Adams, a library information associate. “I always wanted to learn how to sew.”

The new space offers three different studios: the Maker Studio, the Data Studio and the Terry Seligman Virtual Reality Studio.

Nichols explained that the Maker Studio provides access to things that students may not have access too. According to University Libraries, this studio has 3D printers, sewing machines, a laser cutter, vinyl cutters and more. CATalyst has a lot of high tech, but there is also an old-fashioned letter press.

In order to be able to use these machines, certification is necessary. University Libraries has an online registration website for student certification. People are able to sign up for anything they desire and once you are signed off people can come in and use it anytime.

When it comes to prices, people would need to pay for materials that they use.

“If you cut something on vinyl you pay for vinyl, the 3D printer you pay buy weight: Of individuals it’s 10 cents per gram on the vinyl cutter you can pay for the material that you cut, and for the laser cutter you would pay for the time so it’s $2 for for 10 minutes,” Nichols said.

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 A green room located at the CATalyst studio where it can eventually be used for students who are want to produce  videos.
A green room located at the CATalyst studio where it can eventually be used for students who are want to produce videos.

The VR Studio is described on the University Libraries website as a “frontier in research, learning, and multimedia production.”

Nichols mentioned students and faculty members can reserve an hour at an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift station. There is also a separate room available in case more space is necessary and a green room that will be ready in a month. People can use it to produce video and multimedia projects but would need to bring their own cameras.

“It’s a bring your own device space, so you’ll bring your own cameras,” Nichols said.

The studio has enough space to cater to multiple ongoing workshops and drop-in courses. Workshops cover everything from the “Digital Storytelling with Augmented Reality” series to workshops in 3D modeling, sewing and embroidery to laser cutting. 

The drop-ins have a variety of programs where you can get help with an assignment at the CATalyst Studio in Adobe Software, R Programming, multimedia production, research data and more.

For more information on workshops and drop-ins, visit the activities page for CATalyst Studios.

“I want students to feel connected to new communities, and to feel like CATalyst is a place they can influence that we are responsive to student needs and that we support contributions in many different ways,” Nichols said.

According to University Libraries’ construction timeline, construction on the upcoming Student Success District isn’t projected to be completed until a little later this year, but for now, CATalyst Studios is open for business.

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