On Thursday, Jan. 28, USC leaders, faculty, friends and even the Trojan Marching Band gathered remotely for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Baum Family Maker Space, which will serve as a new hub for undergraduate student innovation. In the 30-minute celebration, speakers called the new space the very embodiment of student hands-on learning, increasingly a feature of the nation’s best engineering schools.
“This is the kind of space that makes us all wish we were back in college,” USC President Carol Folt said. “It will make engineering practicable and real and be a cutting-edge home for so many student design teams, from USC Racing to the SC Formula Electric team.”
Set on the ground floor of the Science and Engineering Library on USC’s University Park Campus, the Baum Family Maker Space will serve as a multipurpose center for design and hands-on fabrication. It will consist of a machine shop, a wet lab, a 3-D shop, a paint booth and a design space and will be outfitted with 3-D printers, laser cutters, reconfigurable workbenches and other tools to support innovation.
The nearly 10,000-square-foot maker space will be open to all USC Viterbi undergraduates and provide support across all engineering departments, including senior capstone design projects. It will bring under one roof a number of different design, fabrication and competition activities currently dispersed throughout campus.
The maker space “will serve as a cauldron of innovation, a place where ideas are conceived and tested, where leadership, entrepreneurship, and collaboration across the disciplines and will endure and expand,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos said. “Generations of engineering students will benefit from access to this temple of creativity.”
Dwight J. “Jim” Baum, chair of USC Viterbi’s Board of Councilors and the maker space’s namesake, said he hoped it would allow students to come together, have fun and innovate.
“Every engineer needs a workshop. Edison had Menlo Park, and the Wright Brothers had their bicycle shop,” he said. “Hopefully, this space will be the perfect home for [students] now and those who will come next.”
Baum’s gift continues his family’s tradition of philanthropy at USC. In 1995, he made an unsolicited donation to the SC Racing team that his son helped found. In 2000, Jim Baum’s father, Dwight C. “Bill” Baum, provided support to build the Baum Family Student Center in USC Viterbi’s Tutor Hall. He also endowed the Dwight C. and Hildagarde E. Baum Chair in Biomedical Engineering at USC Viterbi.
Jim Baum and his wife, Judith Baum, are proud parents to two USC Viterbi alumni: Lauren Nollette, B.S. BME ’01, M.S. BME ’05; and Dwight James Baum II, B.S. ME ’99.
Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries, said the maker space represented “a vibrant re-imagining” of part of the USC Science and Engineering Library. “It is a place where students [will] develop ideas and consider their creations in the context of the universe of knowledge, past and present, that our libraries represent,” she said.
Jessica Vela Guevara, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, added that she and other members of USC design teams cannot wait for the official opening of the Baum Family Maker Space, which will take place when the pandemic subsides.
“For the last years, our design teams have been scattered across campus. We have often had to go to various campus locations to access the proper resources to build our projects,” said Vela Guevara, who belongs to the USC Racing and SC Formula Electric teams. “This new maker space is the perfect lab; it is our newest engineering playground with all the right powerful tools and key components in support of our journeys to engineer the future we imagine.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, USC President Folt led an online countdown – “3, 2, 1” – as Yortsos, Jim Baum and his family and Quinlan cut each cut red ribbons over Zoom with matching stanchions. Afterwards, confetti filled the screen.
“I cannot wait to see all the amazing things students will do in this embodiment of engineering education for the 21st century,” Yortsos said.