Funding for mobile digital labs brings technology to the public
URBANA, Ill. – DigiTech hubs, sometimes called “makerspaces,” will soon be available in Illinois due to special initiative funding from University of Illinois Extension. The mobile laboratories, which will rotate among U of I Extension sites throughout the state, will serve as high-tech inventor workshops equipped with tools for participants to learn about digital technology—from audio production to 3D printing.
“Members of the community will be able to make podcasts, experiment with soldering, create small robots, and learn how to do 3D design using the latest digital tools,” said Jon Gant, director of the Center for Digital Inclusion, professor at the U of I’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and principal investigator of the project. “Enabling this kind of innovation and creativity is key to twenty-first century technological and economic development.”
The hubs are just one component of a larger Illinois Digital Innovation Leadership Program that is designed to increase opportunities for entrepreneurship, economic development, and innovation through the expansion of digital manufacturing, digital media production, and data analytics.
Digital Innovation Leadership staff will work with 4-H clubs, public libraries, and public schools to develop permanent community-based and -supported studios, creating a network that will build statewide capacity in digital design, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.
This is one of six collaborative projects led by interdisciplinary faculty and staff from across the U of I campus to further Extension’s education and outreach mission. It is a special partnership between Extension, the dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, and the Office of the Provost. The six projects were selected from a pool of 71 pre-proposals from 16 different campus units. The Extension and Outreach Initiative is aimed at establishing new collaborations between Extension and departments and units across campus.
For more information, visit extension.illinois.edu or cdi.lis.illinois.edu.