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BeAM makerspace reopens in Murray Hall for all UNC students

Junior Jimmy Toole finishes a wood piece for a guitar stand in the Murray Makerspace on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.

After adapting to COVID-19 guidelines and assessing weekly infection levels, the BeAM makerspace reopened last week for all UNC students at its Murray Hall location. 

Previously, the space was only open to researchers and students in specific classes, even creating a new opportunity for community service. The space has now been modified according to COVID-19 guidelines, with newly implemented systems of reservations and online trainings, giving all students the opportunity to use the space.  

BeAM Director Kenny Langley said the makerspaces have been changing in response to the community’s different needs in light of the pandemic since early March.

“We started to get requests from makers across campus that wanted to come in and start producing PPE,” Langley said. “Some people wanted to produce ventilators, or they wanted to make things that they anticipated would have an impact, but we had to be careful.”

Langley said BeAM members worked with an applied physical sciences professor at UNC to engineer face shields. Local volunteers, medical school students and vendors worked with BeAM members to produce over 40,000 face shields, the majority of which were purchased by UNC Health. 

“Our volunteer corps was amazing,” Langley said. “Some people would come in for eight-hour shifts and just assemble them as fast as they could, after they received training. This was in the beginning of a pandemic, so it was just really amazing what came together.”

As the fall semester approached, Langley said the BeAM organization began assessing how it would restore different user groups to the makerspaces. 

Audrey Bousquet, a junior studying biology, said she has been using the BeAM location in Murray Hall since August as part of an applied sciences course. 

“We talk in class about designing and prototyping, and we work in groups to do projects and stuff, and so far, we’ve learned how to use different machines in the makerspace,” she said. 

In order to open up to all undergraduate students, Langley said the BeAM spaces have made adjustments that feature an updated website with online trainings and an online reservation system.

As part of its COVID-19 safety guidelines, the Murray Hall BeAM location has established a maximum capacity of eight patrons. Each patron who enters the BeAM spaces must wear an appropriate, multilayered mask, wash their hands and maintain a 6-foot distance from other users. 

Junior Charlotte Dorn, a BEAM employee, cuts a foam block in the Murray Makerspace on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.

Emily Chatelain, a student program assistant in the BeAM space majoring in biology and psychology, said the adjustments have changed the responsibilities of her job. Now that most of the trainings are online, she said she is mostly available to answer questions of patrons and monitor the BeAM space.

But she said the new norms for the reopening of the BeAM space will balance between adding to the UNC community and taking user safety into consideration.

“I think it will help kind of restore a sense of normalcy while taking precautions,” Chatelain said. “We want the space to be open to everyone, for everyone to not only have access to the space for classes and research and entrepreneurship, but also personal projects.”  

For Bousquet, the BeAM spaces are an interesting and unique part of UNC. She said once the semester is over, she plans to go back to the makerspaces and continue her trainings in order to work on different projects. 

“I think it’s a really cool and useful thing for campus to have,” Bousquet said. “I’ve talked to other people at other schools about this class and the projects that I’ve had to do, and they all think it’s such an interesting experience and they wish that they had something like that at their school.”

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