Build a birdhouse, sew a Halloween costume, make a chess board. New makerspace at EXP offers space to work on creative projects

Person working inside the Makerspace in EXP.
Northeastern students and staff explore EXPmaker, the new makerspace in EXP. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

There are nuts and bolts embedded in the lobby of the second level of EXP, mixed in among the silver and white flooring. It seems to be a nod to what lays ahead: Northeastern’s newest makerspace.

The 15,000-square-foot Makerspace at EXP in the recently opened EXP comes with all the nuts and bolts — literally — needed to create. 

Color-coordinated “tool boards” with small handheld devices are spread throughout the open concept space, which has areas for lounging, as well as work tables for crafting smaller projects. Along the side of the room, an electronics bench for tinkering with small consumables sits between studio space with equipment for 3D printing and laser work.

But what makes Makerspace at EXP stand out from Northeastern’s other makerspaces is that it’s open to all students regardless of their major, much to the delight of many who have come by to check out the space. It’s also open to faculty and staff.

“This is truly the only interdisciplinary makerspace on campus,” said Aya Aragon, makerspace trainer at Makerspace at EXP. “There are a lot of students left without a space to create personal projects outside of coursework.

“There are places where you can go to play Frisbee, places where you can use Adobe Premiere, but there aren’t really places where you can learn how to sew or solder just for fun,” she said. “It’s really fantastic to have a community center on campus that is centered around creativity. It’s not something that exists anywhere else.”

Aragon added that within the first few weeks of opening, student organizations have inquired about using the space, which offers bookable rooms for project work. The sewing machines have also been popular, Aragon said. Many students have come in to work on their Halloween costumes, but just as many come to work on personal projects.

Katherine Chapkis did just that on a recent Tuesday morning, taking advantage of the sewing machines to make a patchwork-style tote bag using squares she cut from old jeans. The fourth-year math major has some clothes she doesn’t wear anymore. Rather than throw them out or drag them to a charity shop, she’s repurposing them, diving headfirst into using EXPmaker.

Chapkis knits and crochets, but hasn’t experimented with sewing machines before. Luckily, Makerspace at EXP offers training to students. This allowed Chapkis to dive into the makerspace right away. She already crafted one tote and hopes to eventually explore the woodworking tools to make some birdhouses.

“I’m just generally someone who likes to work with my hands,” Chapkis said. “This is just another skill I’ve been meaning to learn. Having somebody teach me how to use the machine was really helpful.”

Makerspace at EXP requires users to go through an orientation before using the space, as well as training on individual pieces of equipment. Short orientations run several times a day, walking students, faculty and staff through the space and its rules. Staff at Makerspace at EXP (known as “Explorers”) are also available to answer questions.

Sarah Abeywardena, a third-year computer science student, recently attended one of these orientations so she can prepare to use Makerspace at EXP’s vinyl printers and press to make posters and t-shirts.

“I’m very crafty outside of academics,” she said. “I wanted to see what they had because there isn’t a lot of other places to get access to tools. I’m honestly really surprised at some of the stuff they have here.”

Meanwhile Rylan Gonzalez, a third-year sustainable business major, attended a recent orientation with the idea of using the 3D printer and woodworking tools to create his own chess board.

“It’s awesome,” he said after checking out the space. “This is a great example of Northeastern providing resources that are then there for students to come and use at their leisure. I’m so excited to play with all these new toys.”

Erin Kayata is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @erin_kayata.