CDL’s Ingenuity Engine Lets the Mind Wonder


IE’s 3D printer. Photo by Burrill Strong.

By Doug Marrin

On the second floor of the Chelsea District Library is an enchanting portal into the incredible worlds of our inner and outer space, a place where your imagination and creativity can slip their leash and run, run, run.

CDL’s Ingenuity Engine (IE) is for people with all sorts of interests to come and explore the vast possibilities their curiosity can take them. It is for crafters, artists, businesses, groups, and individuals. Anyone can take advantage of IE’s technology without purchasing their own. The room includes a 3-D printer, laser cutter, Cricut and Silhouette vinyl cutters, sewing machines, and audio-video editing equipment with beginning and professional software programs.

“The Ingenuity Engine is a makerspace where the community can get together, experiment, learn, and expand their horizons,” says Matt Jensen, CDL’s Technology Specialist who oversees the IE. “Think of it as a place to discover while doing.”

Simply described, a makerspace is a place where you, well, make things. In education, students experience hands-on learning with various tools that may include a woodshop, 3D printing, audio-visual equipment, engravers, computers, and hand tools. Spaces like CDL’s Ingenuity Engine are designed to enable us to create, solve problems, develop skills, talents, and think critically.

Learning enthusiast Matt Jensen is CDL’s Technology Specialist who oversees the IE. Photo by Doug Marrin.

It may seem unusual to some that such activities would be found in a library. But Jensen views makerspaces as the evolution of how libraries have adapted to serve the public.

“The first thing many people think of when they think of libraries is books,” explains Jensen. “But that idea has been slowly changing over time. A notable change occurred back in the day with microfilm and microfiche databases, compacting information on film that could only be viewed with bulky equipment.”

Jensen describes how the next bump in the evolutionary advance came with the introduction of word processors and computers. After that, libraries started offering VHS, then DVDs and CDs. And now, libraries provide access to streaming services such as Hoopla, not to mention millions of ebooks and other digital resources.

The laser cutter cuts wood and acrylic and can engrave on different surfaces such as metal and glass. Photo by Burrill Strong.

“Libraries have always been where humans foster and curate information,” he says. “There was a time when if you wanted to learn something, you had to read a book. But we know people learn in different ways. A makerspace such as the Ingenuity Engine fits that idea perfectly.”

In addition to cultivating the inner space of our creativity, this fall the IE is offering an exciting outer space program, Skynet Junior Scholars. Skynet is a global robotic telescope network with telescopes in places like Chile, Australia, Canada, and Italy. With a laptop, students learn how to program these telescopes to explore and take photos of the universe. Students can even take it a step further and design a unique t-shirt with the image or use the laser engraver to make a woodcut.

Skynet students have access to five of these telescopes in Chile and others around the world for their space exploration of things such as the nebula on the right. Photos courtesy CDL.

The Ingenuity Engine has been open for a year. The majority of activities have been by personal appointment. Curious folks come in and discuss their interest with Matt, taking it from there. As the makerspace catches on, he anticipates more class formats.

“We want people to let their curiosity lead and see where it takes them,” says Matt. “If you have an idea, let’s see if we can make that happen.”

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