Innovation and Entrepreneurship

BeAM opens new Learning and Innovation Studio

The new BeAM Learning and Innovation Studio provides a space for long-term projects and creative collaborations.

An open drawer of plyers.

If you spend much time hanging around the makerspace in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Murray Hall, you’ll notice that the most productive makers have a common skill — and it’s not one that necessarily involves any particular hammer, saw or wrench.

Instead, it’s a knack for tinkering — looking at a project and asking, “What if?”

It’s that same turn-now-into-next spirit that led leaders of the Be A Maker community and Innovate Carolina to reimagine an existing nook in the makerspace and transform it something entirely new. The result — the BeAM Learning and Innovation Studio — is an area that will give Carolina makers a place to iterate freely, explore important ideas and build projects over time.

“I am excited for the long-term collaborations with groups across campus that the BeAM Learning and Innovation Studio will allow,” said Rich Superfine, Taylor-Williams Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, professor of Applied Physical Sciences and faculty director of BeAM. “For the first time, we will have the space to engage with new projects – from designing props for the UNC Opera fall production, autonomous vehicles, surgical simulation and more. The possibilities are endless.”

Working together, BeAM and Innovate Carolina, turned an existing lounge area into the new studio. The studio is a working showcase room — an area where members of the UNC-Chapel Hill community can house and hone longer-term projects while sharing their creative process with others. The active workroom is equipped with tools and benches that students, faculty and others can use to build and take creations to their next phase of maturity.

“At Carolina, we see innovation as something more than a single flash of insight or a one-and-done moment of inspiration. It’s a journey,” said Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development. “While it’s important for us to spark new ideas, it’s also critical that we take the time to hone ideas to their greatest purpose. The new BeAM Learning and Innovation studio is exactly the kind of space that allows innovators to evolve and refine their ideas over time so that they can reach the best solutions possible.”

The studio is constructed with a large view of the space. This allows members of the wider maker community to watch, learn and experience the ingenuity of project leaders who work on long-term, signature BeAM projects from beginning to end – before they’re transported elsewhere on campus or beyond.

But, once these large and hefty projects reach their finishing stages at the makerspace, how will they reach their ultimate destinations? The answer — an upfitted golf cart that’s custom designed to haul large projects and materials — also made an appearance inside the new studio during the space’s unveiling. The vehicle is well equipped: a solar panel on the roof, tough-terrain tires and an extendable cargo bed. The BeAM buggy is the perfect complement to the studio space — and it’s ready to deliver projects to anywhere the imagination and hard work of Carolina innovators lead it.