Innovative Media Librarian Alvaro Alvarez and Maker Services Coordinator Raymond Gonzalez will present a workshop at the fourth annual MIRA Conference this July.
June 30, 2021

UCR Library’s Innovative Media Librarian Alvaro Alvarez and Maker Services Coordinator Raymond Gonzalez will present a workshop at the fourth annual MIRA Conference this July.

Interested Highlanders can join them for Creating a Virtual Environment for Makerspaces and Education on Thursday, July 15 from 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. The deadline to register is Monday, July 12.

The Makerspaces for Innovation and Research in Academics (MIRA) Conference brings makers, librarians, educators and practitioners together to share stories, expertise, and their passion for makerspaces and the future of learning. Both Alvarez and Gonzalez have been involved with the MIRA Conference since its 2018 debut, before they joined the UCR Library; in fact, Alvarez thought up the conference name, MIRA. “It brings in the makerspace community to share and to learn new services and technologies,” Gonzales said. “By presenting at MIRA, we get to both share our knowledge and experiences while also learning from others.”

For their presentation, they chose to showcase the virtual reality replica of the Creat’R Lab they built in fall quarter 2020. (For best results, use Mozilla Firefox.) “Virtual Reality is one of the new technologies that is becoming very popular in makerspaces, so we wanted to share our Creat'R Lab virtual environment with our peers to help them get started, if VR is a topic of interest to them,” said Alvarez.

“Due to the pandemic, students and faculty were not able to visit our makerspace in person. This virtual environment allowed the UCR Community, especially those new to the University, to visit and learn about the Creat’R Lab from wherever they are,” Gonzalez added.

This pandemic-driven shift to online-only learning may influence the future of the Creat’R Lab in a positive way. “We will be able to do more online workshops and hybrids so that we can reach a larger audience of students that normally would not be able to attend in person,” Alvarez said. Hosting hybrid workshops allows for more flexibility in scheduling and for UCR makers to review workshop recordings at their leisure, he added.

In addition, needing to think creatively about how to present these topics kept Creat’R Lab staff thinking outside the box. “Creating virtual programming helped us think of more accessible ways of making,” Gonzales explained. “Not everyone has access to equipment like 3D printers and licensed software like Photoshop. During the pandemic, we had workshops on free creative software such as Blender and GIMP, bookbinding techniques using simple tools and materials, painting using three colors of paint, and basic coding and circuit simulation using a free web-based software.”

Originally launched on April 18, 2017, the Creat’R Lab in Orbach Library has served as a gathering place where UCR students and faculty can experiment, design, and create collaboratively, blending their expertise together to forge new paths in learning. It was the first makerspace of its kind at UC Riverside that allowed students and faculty from any department to use it. “We hope that the virtual Creat’R Lab will allow everyone in the UCR Community to familiarize themselves with the makerspace and understand that they are all welcome to use the space and equipment,” Gonzales said.

The Creat’R Lab space in Orbach Library will be closed over the summer, but several online Maker Meetup events will be offered free of charge to UCR students. Ray Gonzalez and Alvaro Alvarez are currently planning for the re-opening of Creat’R Lab this fall quarter. Please check the library website for the latest information on library re-opening plans.