Creat’R Lab serves as testing ground for new ideas
By Sandra Baltazar Martínez
When Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos, an assistant researcher in UCR’s Department of Earth Sciences, needed a 3-D model of California’s earthquake faults, he turned to UCR’s Creat’R Lab for support.
Kyriakopoulos’ task — explaining the complexity and interconnectedness of
faults — is best achieved with the aid of a tangible model that visually supports his research and that of his colleagues, including Nicolas Barth, an assistant professor of geology.
Over the summer, Kyriakopoulos worked with Michele Potter, an open research librarian at the Raymond L. Orbach Science Library, where the lab is housed, to print the pieces that depict 313 of California’s major faults.* Since then, the Lego-type model has been part of a national geophysics conference in New Orleans, as well as a component of outreach efforts with neighboring community colleges and local community events.
“When I found out we had the Creat’R Lab, I knew I could finally print this model, an idea I had had for years,” Kyriakopoulos said.
He paid about $50 for the plastic material and waited patiently for weeks until he received the finished product. A single 25-centimeter piece of the model, which is 5 feet long, took more than 17 hours to print.
Creat’R Lab, a collaborative workspace open to students, faculty, and staff, launched in April 2017 in an effort to support the campus community’s projects and help turn ideas into reality.
The lab, a partnership between UCR Library and the Office of Research and Economic Development, is the first link in a chain of resources dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship at the university. Projects incepted at Creat’R Lab can be transformed into market-ready ideas through the support of the Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Center (EPIC). The ExCITE incubator in downtown Riverside serves as the final link; the collaboration between UCR and the city and county of Riverside helps startup companies accelerate through facilities, networks, mentorship, management, and access to financial resources.
In addition to 3-D printers, Creat’R Lab guests have access to a variety of resources, such as sewing machines, GoPro cameras, design software, and engineering tools to help build whatever their minds can imagine, said Potter.
UCR’s community is imagining plenty. During the spring and fall quarters of 2017, the lab was used by 300 students, and 411 requests for 3-D printing were processed. Seventy-one student-led workshops also took place, covering a diverse range of topics, including electrical engineering, computer programming, and entrepreneurial skills.
Religious studies doctoral candidate Cori Knight has been using the lab to participate in 3-D printing workshops. “It’s something different, and it’s a nice break from writing my dissertation,” Knight said.
Students also use the lab for more artistic endeavors.
Jose Herrera, a first-year neuroscience major, said he loves having a space that allows him to express his passion for cosplay — a social activity in which fans dress up like characters from manga, anime, and video games. Herrera spent many hours in January using the lab’s sewing machines to make three hand-sewn costumes he wore to his first cosplay gathering, the Animé Los Angeles 2018 convention.
“I just never did any of this because I didn’t have access to the machines,” said Herrera, whose interest in costumes began a few years ago, primarily from watching his mother and grandmother work in the garment industry. “The (Creat’R Lab) has opened up a really creative outlet for me. It’s stressful to work on these pieces, but I personally really love it.”
Other items produced by students include a bee net and rubber DNA strands for in-class presentations. One professor assigned group projects in which students worked on a 3-D replica of an Australopithecus hand and a Homo naledi skull (both early human ancestors), while another faculty member needed a gecko toe. Barth, Kyriakopoulos’ colleague, 3-D printed symmetrical versions of crystals to teach his mineralogy students.
“This space and the technology is for absolutely everyone on campus,” said Potter, the research librarian. “We want art students, humanities students, to know all are welcome here. This is not just a lab for science majors.”
Michael Pazzani, vice chancellor of Research and Economic Development, said at the lab’s opening last year that he hopes visitors use it to create things no one has done before.
“That’s really where innovation and entrepreneurship comes from,” he said.
University Librarian Steven Mandeville-Gamble said the types of cross-disciplinary discoveries made possible by the Creat’R Lab are difficult to replicate within colleges.
“We cannot predict the end results of these collaborations, but we can anticipate exciting and unexpected new innovations to come from these interactions,” he said.
Kyriakopoulos plans to continue studying earthquake faults and engaging students with the 3-D models, which will also be used as training tools for the annual Great California ShakeOut.
“We’re in a new era,” said Kyriakopoulos. “I do computer graphic simulations to promote these complex numerical models. But these 3-D models will help explain better to non-experts, including our students taking introductory geology courses.”
*Based on the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast version 3 (UCERF3).