When The Factory opened in 2015, UNT's first makerspace included 12 square feet, a couple of cameras, two student employees and one determined alumna.
Judy Hunter, who received her bachelor's degree from UNT in 2000 and her master's seven years later, has expanded the makerspace to its current home in Willis Library. It now boasts 3D printers, virtual reality equipment, a laser cutter, sewing machines and other gadgets and gizmos all to inspire the imagination of students, faculty and staff alike.
“This has been an incredible journey for me so far,” Hunter says.
Hunter began her journey as a student worker in the computer lab. Upon graduating with her bachelor's, she was hired to run the lab full time.
“That was a really nice transition to get your degree and immediately have a full-time job,” she says with a laugh.
Hunter says being able to shape The Factory from scratch has been a remarkable experience.
“The makerspace movement has really grown, and we have been able to grow along with it,” she says.
Given her unique experience, Hunter is now asked to consult with other universities and gives tours of The Factory for organizations considering developing a makerspace of their own.
“The makerspace community is really neat and supportive,” Hunter says. While The Factory is open to the larger Denton community for workshops, its main mission remains focused on the campus. “It is all about supporting our students, faculty and staff,” Hunter says. “The great thing about makerspaces is they give the opportunity to teach lessons in a more engaging way that really connects with the students.”
As for Hunter, she says the chance to grow her skills keeps her happy.
“I get to teach without being in the classroom and use my technology background,” she says. “My job is really a unique blend of all my experiences and a chance to give back to the UNT community in a positive way.”
The job, Hunter says, comes with its own unique set of rewards and challenges.
“Definitely working with the student employees is the most rewarding part of my job,” Hunter says. “Watching them grow and evolve and seeing what they end up doing with their skills is amazing.”
But she says watching them leave the nest is the hardest part.
“There is so much talent that comes through here every year, but it is tough when they leave,” Hunter says.
Hunter says she sees The Factory continuing its upward trajectory.
“I think the sky is the limit for us,” Hunter says. “We will continue to grow and offer these unique learning opportunities to our community.”