Military experience opens UNT student’s eyes to world of innovation and creation

Jordan Barrett uses a 3D printer to create a campus braille mapAfter months of trial and error learning to model, design and print 3D objects, the 54 3D campus buildings created by UNT student Jordan Barrett were put on permanent display in the University Union for the benefit of all students and visitors, especially those who are visually impaired.

At the request of UNT’s Student Government Association, Barrett created a 3D version of the UNT campus map that measures 33 inches wide by 30 inches tall. Each building is numbered using braille and corresponds with a key identifying each campus landmark. The map, located on the Union’s first floor outside The Corner Store, was unveiled Nov. 7 during a ceremony with the Student Government Association and Office of Disability Access.

“The map provides students and visitors who are visually impaired with tactile feedback about UNT’s campus,” says Barrett, a first-generation college student and U.S. military veteran. “I hadn’t 3D modeled before I started this project, so there was a huge learning curve to overcome, but with the help of my co-workers, I produced a product I’m very proud of.”

Barrett is one of 14 UNT students who work at The Factory, a makerspace for the UNT community that promotes the cooperative and creative use of technology. Sewing machines, 3D printers, laser cutters, document cameras and equipment for robotics, audiovisual, coding, soldering, weaving and computer programming all are available for use by the UNT community, free of charge, at The Factory. Barrett and her co-workers all are trained to use and instruct others on every piece of equipment. When SGA requested The Factory help construct a braille map, Manager Judy Hunter saw it as a good learning opportunity for Barrett.  

Campus Braille Map“Jordan is incredibly intelligent and inquisitive. She isn’t afraid of learning new things or of failing at first. She’s a huge asset to The Factory and I knew she would create a product we all would be proud of,” Hunter says.

Barrett came to UNT in August 2016 after serving six years in the United States Navy, including three as an electronics technician on a Navy vessel in Oahu, Hawaii. It was during her time in Hawaii that Barrett became military-certified in soldering – a designation that helped her land a job at The Factory.

During every shift, The Factory’s staff members are busy helping visitors, teaching workshops or completing special-interest projects. Barrett’s favorite project enabled her to call on her musical roots, as she developed an original score from machine sounds recorded in The Factory.

“When you’re limited by the supplies you have, you tend to create something really neat,” Barrett says.

Entering college with more life experience than traditional freshmen was challenging, but Barrett quickly found her co-workers at The Factory to be like a second family. 

Jordan Barrett"The team of people who work at The Factory are great and we’re all good at really different things. This is a different type of campus job and it’s not for all students. We’re always busy and branching out, and trying new things is part of the job,” Barrett says. “It’s rewarding because you develop new skills and find new passions while you’re completing your projects.”

Barrett credits military life – where she primarily worked repairing communications gear, but also had to know how to fight fires, shore up a hole in the ship and stand topside with a gun as part of regular life on the ship – for making no task or new technology seem impossible to learn.

Barrett’s work in The Factory complements her studies as a business computer information systems student and enables her to develop her coding skills. She recently secured a summer internship with PepsiCo and hopes to someday work in cybersecurity.

“Growing up, I loved Carmen Sandiego and I love the idea of being an undercover spy. Cybersecurity isn’t the same thing, but it’s a level of a defense and defending a network or white hat hacking other people and gives you a sense of purpose in a technological world,” Barrett says. “As a veteran, I’m looking for a career that continues to give me the same feeling of serving something greater than myself.”

The time Barrett spent learning about 3D modeling and printing will leave a lasting impact on all UNT community members who use the braille map.

The most exciting part for Barrett – knowing she can teach anyone who visits The Factory how to accomplish any 3D printing project they want.