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How the Library’s ProtoSpace Helps Improve the Student Learning Experience

The J. Willard Marriott Library aims to help students succeed while at the University of Utah. Hands-on, experiential learning activities support student innovation from many disciplines, and help students prepare for a rapidly changing information and technology landscape. ProtoSpace, located on level 2, is host to a variety of digital scholarship and fabrication resources, and offers hands-on learning opportunities that enhance the student experience. It’s important for the library to offer experiential learning opportunities because this type of learning bridges the gap between theory and practice, enhancing both academic and real-world readiness,” explained Assistant Head of Creative Spaces TJ Ferrill. In ProtoSpace, podcasting booths, GIS & data visualization computers, virtual reality (VR) & spatial computing workstations, the Materials Collection, a visualization wall, and 3D printing services all support experiential learning for the entire University of Utah community. 

Working with students

Students have long used these resources for their projects. One example is Ben Eder, an architecture student who used library services to fabricate parts of a building massing for a team project in his Architectural Design Studio class. Although the ProtoSpace seemed intimidating to Eder initially, he quickly acclimated to the collaborative space after a few study sessions. This was when he met TJ Ferrill. “I was sitting at a table working on a problem and TJ walked over. He somehow knew I had a question,” retold Ben Eder. “I remember that interaction because of how distinct it was. How did someone know I was struggling?” He was then able to work with Ferrill to not only solve his problem, but thrive in the space. When asked about the interaction, TJ Ferrill explained, “Library spaces grow and succeed when they are built in conversation with the needs of users. Daily interactions with innovative students leads to an intuitive sense about when help is needed.”

There are many spaces on campus that offer study space, but ProtoSpace lends to increased experiential learning opportunities. “We all need a space to develop during the design process,” explained Eder. “ProtoSpace is the ideal location on campus because the collective of multidisciplinary focus has a cross pollinating effect on the design iterations.” 

When asked to address other students who also may not understand how to use ProtoSpace resources, Ben Eder recommends simply, “Just start. It doesn’t have to be related to prototyping work. Just begin by being in the space and do something.”

ProtoSpace is the ideal location on campus because the collective of multidisciplinary focus has a cross pollinating effect on the
design iterations.” 
Architecture student Ben Eder standing next to his team’s 3D printed model for an architectural design studio class.
The Future of Experiential Learning at ProtoSpace

When asked about what ProtoSpace might do to aid further in student success, TJ Ferrill explained, We plan to offer more guided learning opportunities that feature experiential components in the future. For example, workshops that walk patrons through the process of using the podcast booths, VR, or 3D printing.” Additionally, as reliance on experiential learning increases, Ferrill expects ProtoSpace’s growing number of resources and services will play a critical role in more students’ academic success. 

Questions about ProtoSpace? Contact TJ Ferrill at  

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