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story.lead_photo.caption NPC makerspace coordinator Michael Karr adjusts a saw blade at the school’s new location on the college campus Thursday. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

National Park College celebrated the reopening of its Makerspace on Wednesday, after it was relocated to the college campus from its former location on Albert Pike Road.

"I'm very grateful to the college community, the Makerspace team and our business community for the conceptual support, and working hard to make this a reality," NPC President John Hogan said.

Hogan said that, five years ago, the college had the vision to create a space that would enable students, employers, community leaders and faculty to work together in hands-on projects.

Hogan said Makerspace is a place for students to learn through free access to emerging technologies, software and other tools.

"Our goal is to enhance learning by providing open-source opportunities to explore through hands-on, real-world projects that cross all disciplinary boundaries," he said.

The NPC Makerspace is a publicly accessible workshop, equipped with tools, equipment, and resources for a wide variety of projects, according to the college's website. Visitors can work on a project of their own design, one of the projects the college has developed, or just hone their skills and expand their knowledge of tools and equipment. Some of the equipment available includes 3D printers, a laser cutter, electronic workstations, woodworking equipment, an Oculus Rift VR set, and a sewing machine.

Hogan said the success of a college is determined by its commitment to original thinking and problem solving, noting Makerspace is emblematic of NPC's character as a hub for innovation and creativity.

Mark Conry, the owner of Jaeco Orthopedics, discussed the importance of the Makerspace for small businesses and how it can help them to best invest their capital, according to a news release.

"Oftentimes, we want to be able to do innovative things to make new products, but to go out and invest in machinery and tools in order to do that is sometimes very challenging for small businesses," he said in the release.

"The Makerspace has allowed me to use their rapid prototyping products, 3D printers ... to have access to that along with the expertise they are able to provide to small businesses has been very helpful to me," he said.

"The Makerspace for me as a student (is) a great place to create some really cool projects," Mark McCorkle, NPC student, and Makerspace employee, said. "I am a computer science major and a nerd at heart."

Among some of the other projects that McCorkle has done include using microcontrollers in electronics to create LED displays and solar panels that track and orient toward the sun.

"Being a member of the Makers Club, I have (been) able to work with some of the other clubs on campus to design and create the Nighthawk Box, which is a free pantry that will be placed on campus," he said.

Robin Pelton, Innovative Technologies Center director, said that without the help of the Arkansas Department of Education, Makerspace would not be possible.

"We now have to step up and ensure that the Makerspace is sustainable. Everything up to this point has been offered at no cost in our center because we wanted to get people involved and see what kinds of projects and problems they can solve by utilizing our equipment and our resources," she said.

"Our mission is to further impact our community and challenge the entrepreneurial spirit," Pelton said.

Forrest Spicher, Board of Trustees chair, said NPC continues to transform the educational offering in the community.

"This gives an opportunity for students in our community to think of themselves differently culturally, that they could actually make something, and that's certainly a way to change the culture of the thought process in our community," he said.

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