Got an idea? Bring it the University of Mississippi’s IdeaLab



Photo By Juliette St. Romain.

Juliette St. Romain
Oxford Stories

New technologies are being invented every day. The University of Mississippi has created a technology space known as IdeaLab where students have access to the latest gadgets.

Digital Media Studies Professor Brian Young said providing access is one of the main roles of campus libraries.

“Often, we think of that access in regards to scholarly materials (books, journal articles, databases, etc.),” he said. “But the IdeaLab is just a continuation of that access role. Centralized access to 3D printing, virtual reality, and other tools ensures that all students can learn about and use this technology.

“For the community, this access removes barriers. Aspirationally, I hope the IdeaLab becomes one of several places within our campus community that fosters creativity and collaboration, providing a space for people from multiple disciplines to work together and/or be inspired by one another.”

Stan Whitehorn, head of library facilities, has been working for more than 17 years. A native of Memphis, he worked for 15 years at the University of Memphis Library before moving to Oxford.

“My wife and I wanted a small town atmosphere to raise our children in, so we moved to Oxford,” Whitehorn said.

Whitehorn said IdeaLab idea came from an idea happening in academic libraries and public libraries.

“It’s a thing called Maker’s Space,” he said. “It’s a place dedicated to creating things, actually making things. Maker’s Space is a place where you can come in, work on something, and then actually take something away with you. Whether it is a solid object made with a 3-D printer or a small computer interface … or a computer file, the possibilities are endless.”

Photo By Juliette St. Romain.

Photo By Juliette St. Romain.

Whitehorn said he was making a sign for one of the rooms by using one of the computers in the IdeaLab which features different types of creative software.

He said the 3-D printer is his favorite piece of equipment in the IdeaLab. “That thing is fun,” he said.

Ole Miss obtained the printer through the Library Administration. They wanted to participate in the Maker’s Space that includes the printer, computers, and a large format printer to print out posters four feet wide.

Before buying these items, library leaders researched and reviewed the equipment before making big purchases.

“We asked a lot of people throughout the country, who had Maker’s Spaces already set into play, what the best products for this type of usage were,” said Whitehorn. “So armed with that information, the library then went and made some informed purchases.”

3-D printer

Photo By Juliette St. Romain.

Whitehorn said the 3-D printer works with 3-D files, such as STL or OBJ. You can create an object in Photoshop and other programs.

The 3-D files are manipulated and shown in three dimensions. “Once you have that, you can load it onto the 3-D printer, and it will actually print it out by melting tiny strands of filament and then layering them on top of each other, which then builds into whatever you drew.”

UM students who want to experiment with the printer can come to the IdeaLab on the bottom floor of the library and talk to the staff who will then work with you to ensure that your idea works.

UM students can also go to the library web page and fill out a file to print.

The staff looks at the file and gives students an estimated cost of the finished product. The cost is inexpensive.

“As time goes on, more people want to do 3-D printing,” said Whitehorn. “So here at the IdeaLab, we can help out, and fill some of those gaps, and help any student in any major with whatever idea they may have.”

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