In Reed’s sunny art studio, students are using technology to find new ways to create
Williston students have a new array of state-of-the-art tools to make almost any object they can dream up. A second-floor art studio in the Reed Campus Center has been transformed into a Maker Space, housing a laser cutter/engraver, a CNC carving machine, four 3D printers, and the computers and software that interface with them all. (See below for more on these tools.)
Outfitted by a generous gift from the late Robert Sammis ’51, the space gives students opportunities to create in new ways. More importantly, perhaps, it also provides pathways to a wide variety of careers, such as art and design, architecture, entertainment, engineering, aerospace, robotics, manufacturing, and health care.
The maker behind the Maker Space is Charles Raffetto. Williston’s longtime Theater Production and Facilities Manager, Raffetto also started teaching visual arts in the Middle School four years ago. “I knew that I wanted to provide a curriculum that allowed the students to approach art from a different perspective than they might have been used to,” he said. “I wanted to incorporate technology into the design and assembly processes.”
In thinking about the tools and space needed for this kind of exploration, Raffetto originally envisioned using part of the theater shop in Scott Hall, but soon started sketching out plans for a dedicated and fully equipped room. His renderings fortunately lined up perfectly with the alumni gift, and the Maker Space came to life.
“So many people feel that they aren’t artistic because they don’t have the skills to paint photo-realistically, or they haven’t had the chance to spend hours and hours in an art classroom,” he says. “These machines don’t replace artistic skill, but they open the doors and make room for more types of artists.” Using the computer stations,
students can design almost anything—laser-etched artwork, a topographically accurate landscape for a model house, elaborate stencil patterns, or props for a play. Right now the space and the tools are so new that they are primarily being used in art classes, but ultimately, the tools can work for any subject. “Is a student learning about the brain?” asks Raffetto. “Great, now they can 3D print a model of one instead of only looking at images online.”
“My hope is that we will get to a point where Williston community members come into the space and make
either practical or whimsical things for themselves,” Raffetto said. Once word gets out, no doubt they will.
Which Maker Machine is Which?
3D printers create objects layer by layer using materials such as plastic filaments, resins, or plastic or metal powders. Using a source of energy such as a laser or heated extruder, layers of these materials are solidified to form the finished part.
A CNC (computer numerical control) machine starts with a block of material (often wood) called a blank and cuts away at it to create the finished product. To do this, cutters and spinning tools are used to shape the piece.
Laser cutting is a fabrication process that uses a thin, focused laser beam to cut and etch materials into custom designs, patterns, and shapes.