Makerspaces at Stanford

In this 2011 photo, two people in the foundry at the Product Realization Lab are preparing to pour molten metal into molds. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Dozens of spaces at Stanford help students and faculty - and, in some cases, staff and community members - explore their inner maker while also supporting those who are experienced creators.

Whether a person’s dreams involve DNA synthesizers or dresses with pockets, almost any idea can come to life in one of the dozens of makerspaces dotting the Stanford University campus. These spaces offer all manner of mentorship, materials and equipment - easels, lathes, 3D printers, recording studios, sewing machines, microscopes, spectrometers and even a forge - for the purpose of encouraging hands-on, creative learning and community building.

"The experience of holding something in your hands that you made is much more visceral than an article or an end-of-term paper," said Quinn Dombrowski , academic technology specialist in the Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages at Stanford and founder of the Textile Makerspace in Pigott Hall.

Dozens of makerspaces at Stanford help members of the campus community explore their creative side. Come along as Stanford science writer Taylor Kubota tackles one of the hands-on project kits at Lab64.

Stanford has emphasized hands-on learning from its inception. University founders Jane and Leland Stanford were outspoken advocates for the value of skilled labor and decreed in the founding grant that the campus should house whatever museums, galleries, labs and conservatories were necessary to foster not only personal success in its students but also "direct usefulness."

Now, with makerspaces for art. engineering and projects that defy discipline, Stanford has enthusiastically followed its founders’ decree - boosted by modern enthusiasm for learning from failure and having more physical experiences.

"In a world that’s become more digital and online, hands-on making has become all the more vital," said Harry Elam , senior vice provost for education, vice president for the arts, and the Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities. "It’s an outlet in a variety of ways, a creative outlet in some ways for self-expression and in other ways for critical and intellectual engagement."

Community, creativity and openness

After repeatedly hearing the staff of Stanford’s Product Realization Lab (PRL) challenging incoming graduate students to make their ideas reality, Chris Gerdes , professor of mechanical engineering, took the dare and proposed building an entire car. The result was the P1 experimental vehicle , a project Gerdes admits he might not have attempted if he knew in advance how hard it would be. That being said, he hopes that the students who witnessed him in the throes of the creative process were encouraged to embark on their own ambitious projects.

"You don’t really understand something unless you’ve built it and broken it," said Gerdes, who co-leads a team focused on campus makerspaces as part of the university’s long-range vision. "If students can take ideas that are in their head and get good at the prototyping and testing and revision required to make them real, that’s a skill you can take to anything else you do in life."

Years later, Gerdes’ PRL experience exemplifies the core values that his team deemed essential to successful makerspaces: community, fostering of creativity and openness. Together, these values support spaces where people are encouraged to take risks, find inspiration and ask for help.

"When we sat down with people from very different areas to talk about making, it was surprising that the value system of scientists and engineers reflected so well the values that, for instance, the documentary film program holds," said Jamie Meltzer , associate professor of art and art history and co-leader of the makerspace team. "Studying our makerspaces opened up my eyes to how making transcends disciplines. It seems like an essential activity of human existence and defining who we are."

Given making’s broad, universal nature, Meltzer stressed the need to continue supporting spaces dedicated to specific areas of study - such as those restricted to students enrolled in certain courses. These places promote a special sense of community, different from the mixture of makers you’d see in more interdisciplinary makerspaces, and serve important functions for academic projects.

"In a place like the Roble Arts Gym, which is specifically an arts makerspace, you can find like-minded students and even potential collaborators," Elam said. "If you’re an artist, it’s a place where you can know that there is a community, that you’re not alone in being an artist at Stanford."

Gerdes and Meltzer are now moving forward with plans to better unify the existing makerspaces. This process includes supplying the people who run these spaces with funding for improved resources and collaboration, and supporting them in determining a campus-wide organizational structure. They have also proposed a new shared makerspace teaching assistant (TA) position for graduate students. Instead of being assigned to one specific space, these TAs would rotate through several different spaces, a valuable opportunity for both the spaces and the TAs. The possibility of new makerspaces has also been considered in the reimagining of White Plaza as a town center and the reconfiguration of campus residential communities, both also part of the university’s vision for the future.

Dombrowski’s Trojan horse

When Dombrowski started at Stanford, someone mentioned that the Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages’ digital humanities lab was due for a renaissance. This led to the creation of the Textile Makerspace, where hands-on experimentation could bring people closer to the digital humanities.

"I thought experimenting in a very physical way might translate to a willingness to work on digital humanities projects," said Dombrowski, who co-directs the makerspace with Nichole Nomura, a graduate student in English. "It would kind of be my Trojan horse for getting people involved in digital humanities by thinking about creation and failure and trying things."

Dombrowski’s most ambitious digital humanities idea involving the Textile Makerspace would require the construction of a special loom that weaves patterns based on punch cards. With a punch-card loom, people in the makerspace could produce Jacquard-woven textiles by following the instructions in 19th-century French and German weaving books that exist in Stanford Libraries’ Special Collections.

Making at Stanford

Unlike many other educational environments in college, makerspaces unreservedly embrace an atmosphere where people are allowed to try something new - and be bad at it.

"I have the world’s worst spatial imagination. So, in 10 years of sewing, I’ve gone from being abysmal at it to merely bad," Dombrowski said. "The fact is, you can still get something out of it and you can almost always try again."

This low-stakes setting is also ideal for people hoping to learn about a technique or tool that’s already familiar to their colleagues or classmates, explained Claudia Dorn, manager of resources and community in the Office of the Vice President for the Arts. Dorn has helped create several arts makerspaces, including the Roble Arts Gym, to support students’ academic and extracurricular work. Additionally, she said she hopes these spaces can inspire visitors to produce projects beyond what’s required or expected of them.

"We want people to come in and say, ’I have never used a 3D printer,’ and we can teach them or they can teach themselves without feeling pressured," Dorn said. "Where they go from there could change the whole course of what they study or what they do in their free time."

The map of Stanford makerspaces featured in this article may be subject to updates as our makerspace offerings change over time. If you see any errors in the current map, please email corrections to tkubota [at] stanford (p) edu.

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  • Faculty Senate hears reports on sustainability, lecturers
  • Stanford trustees hear annual report from president, tour new Bass Biology Building
  • Stanford moves forward with vision for the future
  • President and provost host conversation with the campus community
  • Trustees discuss long-range planning, budget and affordability issues
  • Conversation with the president and provost
  • Stanford president outlines initiatives emerging from long-range planning process


  • Programs arising from Stanford’s long-range vision launching new activities for research and education
  • AI and gene-editing pioneers to discuss ethics
  • Stanford Faculty Senate hears undergraduate education proposals, endorses recommendation on contemplative garden
  • President, provost address campus climate survey, university budget in conversation with the Stanford community
  • Stanford trustees hear annual report from president, discuss the university’s research ecosystem, sustainability solutions
  • Faculty Senate votes, listens to ASSU leaders, gets update on long-range vision
  • Stanford pilots data science fellowship program
  • Q&A: Two proposals reimagine the future of Stanford undergraduate education
  • New incubator to fuel life science innovation in Stanford Research Park
  • Stanford leaders present plan for implementing the university’s long-range vision
  • President and provost host community conversation at new Redwood City campus
  • Affordability Task Force digging into needs of various communities
  • Town Center design team gathers feedback for the future of White Plaza
  • ResX Task Force releases final recommendations
  • Stanford University launches the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence
  • Changing Human Experience Design Team focuses on arts, humanities, social sciences
  • President and provost hold conversation with the campus community
  • Trustees focus on Stanford’s external engagement
  • Q-FARM initiative to bolster quantum research at Stanford-SLAC
  • Task force seeks campus input on affordability challenges
  • Design teams shift their focus to developing recommendations to implement Stanford’s vision for the future
  • Board of Trustees focuses on diversity and inclusion
  • Trustees adopt new investment responsibility framework for Stanford
  • Stanford to go 100 percent solar by 2021
  • After a successful pilot, Stanford looks to future of alternative worksites
  • Faculty Senate hears reports on sustainability, lecturers
  • Stanford trustees hear annual report from president, tour new Bass Biology Building
  • Stanford moves forward with vision for the future
  • President and provost host conversation with the campus community
  • Trustees discuss long-range planning, budget and affordability issues
  • Conversation with the president and provost
  • Stanford president outlines initiatives emerging from long-range planning process


Open to all students

  • Cantor drop-in studio : Experiment with art materials and new techniques by participating in a hands-on art making experience. The drop-in studio at the Cantor runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during Second Sunday, a free, family-focused day of art talks, hands-on art making, and gallery adventures for visitors of all ages at the Cantor and the Anderson Collection. Registration is not required and visitors can work at their own pace.
  • The Hub : The Hub at Lathrop Library is a study space and a one-stop shop for technology needs at Stanford, both online and at Lathrop Library. Students can visit The Hub to study, collaborate with friends and fellow students, and discover all the equipment available to students at no cost. The team will help set up and connect devices, protect information and provide tech education. Students can access over 100 different applications, which range from video production to CAD modeling.
  • Lab64 : Lab64 is an electrical engineering laboratory and workspace located on the bottom floor of the Packard building. The workspace, also known as the Packard makerspace, is open 24 hours, seven days a week for any Stanford community member interested in building electronics. Students of all majors can use the space after they view a short lab safety presentation and email the Lab64 manager. Lab64 is also available for Stanford staff, faculty and researchers. To further promote safety, Lab64 has a buddy system that requires Lab64 makers to work in pairs when they use the space.
  • PRL : The Stanford Product Realization Lab (PRL) is located in Building 610 and the Huang Engineering Center, room 36. Open to current Stanford students, this is a multi-site teaching facility where students discover the power to create the future. Each year, under the mentorship of PRL faculty and course assistants, more than 1,000 Stanford undergraduate, graduate and professional school students make things of lasting value: innovative medical, food production, transportation, communications and consumer products.
  • Roble Arts Gym : The Roble Arts Gym, open to current Stanford students, offers students a unique space to explore their creative sides and mingle with like-minded souls. Students can drop in to talk to the Stanford Arts staff about writing grants, renting equipment, applying to jobs in the creative fields, professional development, extracurricular arts support or anything pertaining to the arts.
  • Textile Makerspace : The Textile Makerspace in Pigott Hall, room 238, is open to students, faculty and staff. It provides an environment for exploring infrastructure (sewing machine, serger, vinyl/fabric cutter, cutting implements), reusability and adaptation (patterns), development (making things) and failure (seam-ripping) in a materially centered way.

Restricted access

  • Architecture Studio: The Architecture Studio in the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy (Y2E2) Building, room 266, is open to majors and minors of the architectural design undergraduate program as well as students who are currently taking studio courses. The studio has a laser cutter and a 3D printer. Training before using the laser cutter is mandatory.
  • CCRMA - Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics : Resources at CCRMA are dedicated to music-making, composition, performance, research and education. Access is limited to faculty, students and guests of the department with prior reservation.
  • Earth Tech Lounge: The Stanford Earth Student Lounge is a shared space for undergraduate and graduate students intended for educational and community use. Stanford Earth undergraduate and graduate students have priority to use this space for educational and social activities, such as study halls, thesis writing sessions, Know Your Planet talks, info sessions and movie nights.
  • GSE Makery : The GSE Makery is located on the first floor of the Center for Educational Research at Stanford (CERAS) at 520 Galvez Mall. It provides equipment and support for the Graduate School of Education community to co-design and build for tomorrow’s learners.
  • McMurtry Building: The McMurtry Building, home of the Department of Art and Art History (355 Roth Way), houses spaces for art practice, design, art history, film and media studies, and documentary film and video that are utilized by undergraduate and graduate students taking department courses.
  • Studio 2 : Studio 2 is an eco, micro, mobile art space for the street or the foothills. Studio 2 is intended to address art and design as social practice and community engagement, including curatorial practice and public programming as civic engagement; demonstrate sustainable construction and design from theory to practice; suggest scalability in design and implementation, theorizing a mobile national arts residency program; and support the dialogue around arts and environmental research.
  • Varian Physics student shop : The student machine shop in Varian Physics room 001 is a 24-hour shop for those who have been certified to use the equipment. A machine shop class is offered once a year on a first-come, first-served basis. The class is an introduction to the basics of machining on mills, lathes, drill presses etc., the "dos and don’ts" in the machine shop, and especially shop safety.
  • Venture Studio : The Stanford Venture Studio at the NGP CoLab is an entrepreneurship hub for graduate students exploring new venture ideas. Graduate students from any Stanford school, working on any type of idea, and at any stage, can join to get access to exclusive resources including co-working space, startup office hours with mentors and experts, free credits to cloud services and other tools, and an interdisciplinary community of like-minded peers and alumni.
  • Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab : The Revs Program at Stanford benefits from use of the Automotive Innovation Facility, which houses the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL), a state-of-the-art vehicle research facility where interdisciplinary teams can work on projects that move vehicle technology forward. In order to improve safety, sustainability, performance and enjoyment of automobiles, the Automotive Innovation Facility provides a place for researchers to test new ideas in real vehicles.
  • Wilfred Uytengsu Sr. Teaching Center : The Uytengsu Teaching Laboratory is on the first floor of the Shriram Center for Bioengineering & Chemical Engineering. Limited to the School of Engineering, it offers a safe and conducive laboratory environment to enable educational excellence throughout all undergraduate and graduate teaching labs. It also supports student engineering club activities.

Residential messy arts spaces (residents only)

  • Mirrielees House

Open to all students

  • Cantor drop-in studio : Experiment with art materials and new techniques by participating in a hands-on art making experience. The drop-in studio at the Cantor runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during Second Sunday, a free, family-focused day of art talks, hands-on art making, and gallery adventures for visitors of all ages at the Cantor and the Anderson Collection. Registration is not required and visitors can work at their own pace.
  • The Hub : The Hub at Lathrop Library is a study space and a one-stop shop for technology needs at Stanford, both online and at Lathrop Library. Students can visit The Hub to study, collaborate with friends and fellow students, and discover all the equipment available to students at no cost. The team will help set up and connect devices, protect information and provide tech education. Students can access over 100 different applications, which range from video production to CAD modeling.
  • Lab64 : Lab64 is an electrical engineering laboratory and workspace located on the bottom floor of the Packard building. The workspace, also known as the Packard makerspace, is open 24 hours, seven days a week for any Stanford community member interested in building electronics. Students of all majors can use the space after they view a short lab safety presentation and email the Lab64 manager. Lab64 is also available for Stanford staff, faculty and researchers. To further promote safety, Lab64 has a buddy system that requires Lab64 makers to work in pairs when they use the space.
  • PRL : The Stanford Product Realization Lab (PRL) is located in Building 610 and the Huang Engineering Center, room 36. Open to current Stanford students, this is a multi-site teaching facility where students discover the power to create the future. Each year, under the mentorship of PRL faculty and course assistants, more than 1,000 Stanford undergraduate, graduate and professional school students make things of lasting value: innovative medical, food production, transportation, communications and consumer products.
  • Roble Arts Gym : The Roble Arts Gym, open to current Stanford students, offers students a unique space to explore their creative sides and mingle with like-minded souls. Students can drop in to talk to the Stanford Arts staff about writing grants, renting equipment, applying to jobs in the creative fields, professional development, extracurricular arts support or anything pertaining to the arts.
  • Textile Makerspace : The Textile Makerspace in Pigott Hall, room 238, is open to students, faculty and staff. It provides an environment for exploring infrastructure (sewing machine, serger, vinyl/fabric cutter, cutting implements), reusability and adaptation (patterns), development (making things) and failure (seam-ripping) in a materially centered way.

Restricted access

  • Architecture Studio: The Architecture Studio in the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy (Y2E2) Building, room 266, is open to majors and minors of the architectural design undergraduate program as well as students who are currently taking studio courses. The studio has a laser cutter and a 3D printer. Training before using the laser cutter is mandatory.
  • CCRMA - Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics : Resources at CCRMA are dedicated to music-making, composition, performance, research and education. Access is limited to faculty, students and guests of the department with prior reservation.
  • Earth Tech Lounge: The Stanford Earth Student Lounge is a shared space for undergraduate and graduate students intended for educational and community use. Stanford Earth undergraduate and graduate students have priority to use this space for educational and social activities, such as study halls, thesis writing sessions, Know Your Planet talks, info sessions and movie nights.
  • GSE Makery : The GSE Makery is located on the first floor of the Center for Educational Research at Stanford (CERAS) at 520 Galvez Mall. It provides equipment and support for the Graduate School of Education community to co-design and build for tomorrow’s learners.
  • McMurtry Building: The McMurtry Building, home of the Department of Art and Art History (355 Roth Way), houses spaces for art practice, design, art history, film and media studies, and documentary film and video that are utilized by undergraduate and graduate students taking department courses.
  • Studio 2 : Studio 2 is an eco, micro, mobile art space for the street or the foothills. Studio 2 is intended to address art and design as social practice and community engagement, including curatorial practice and public programming as civic engagement; demonstrate sustainable construction and design from theory to practice; suggest scalability in design and implementation, theorizing a mobile national arts residency program; and support the dialogue around arts and environmental research.
  • Varian Physics student shop : The student machine shop in Varian Physics room 001 is a 24-hour shop for those who have been certified to use the equipment. A machine shop class is offered once a year on a first-come, first-served basis. The class is an introduction to the basics of machining on mills, lathes, drill presses etc., the "dos and don’ts" in the machine shop, and especially shop safety.
  • Venture Studio : The Stanford Venture Studio at the NGP CoLab is an entrepreneurship hub for graduate students exploring new venture ideas. Graduate students from any Stanford school, working on any type of idea, and at any stage, can join to get access to exclusive resources including co-working space, startup office hours with mentors and experts, free credits to cloud services and other tools, and an interdisciplinary community of like-minded peers and alumni.
  • Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab : The Revs Program at Stanford benefits from use of the Automotive Innovation Facility, which houses the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL), a state-of-the-art vehicle research facility where interdisciplinary teams can work on projects that move vehicle technology forward. In order to improve safety, sustainability, performance and enjoyment of automobiles, the Automotive Innovation Facility provides a place for researchers to test new ideas in real vehicles.
  • Wilfred Uytengsu Sr. Teaching Center : The Uytengsu Teaching Laboratory is on the first floor of the Shriram Center for Bioengineering & Chemical Engineering. Limited to the School of Engineering, it offers a safe and conducive laboratory environment to enable educational excellence throughout all undergraduate and graduate teaching labs. It also supports student engineering club activities.

Residential messy arts spaces (residents only)

  • Mirrielees House

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