Makerspace studio planned – Founder wants to make science fun

By Mercy Lopez/Las Vegas Optic

While pursuing his master’s degree at Highlands University, Mariano Ulibarri developed a program to help young people by teaching them about technology while making it fun and exciting.

He opened up his Parachute Factory organization and its Makerspace area in February 2013. Ulibarri held many events and camps at his previous location on Bridge Street. But due to costs, he put the factory on hold for a short while and accepted a job with his alma mater in October.

His position at Highlands at the Achieving in Research Math and Science Center, commonly referred to as ARMAS, was created in partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory in an effort to increase the number of computer science graduates. Ulibarri is looking into innovative ways to help accomplish this task. To help achieve this, he secured additional space on the university’s campus to house a new Makerspace studio.

During the past few weeks, NMHU has installed new flooring, and four rooms at Hewitt Hall are being equipped with new furniture.  Ulibarri said one room would serve as his office. A virtual reality room is also planned, as are two rooms that will be outfitted with computers, 3D printers, and other devices, including a laser cutter.

Ulibarri said he is excited about all the possibilities available for area youth and college students now that a Makerspace is being added to the Highlands campus.

“Having a space is great,” Ulibarri said. “I came here before the break, and nothing was done. Then after the break, there is new linoleum, and the rooms are freshly painted.”

He said he hopes to start programs at the new facility in February, calling the Makerspace “A place where local youth can explore the latest and greatest technology for free.”

He said the program will encourage students to seek careers in science, technology, math, engineering and computer science.

“This is a huge step forward for our kiddos and an awesome opportunity to really put Las Vegas and Highlands on the map,” Ulibarri said. “It allows local youth to come and experience what Highlands has to offer.”

He added that the new Makerspace will make Highlands more accessible to youth in the area, and make it more community oriented.

“A lot of the kids I meet have never been to Highlands…” Ulibarri said. “They don’t see this as a place they can come to. My hope with this space is that these kids will now see Highlands as part of their community. They can come here and do stuff.”

Ulibarri said he wants to start after-school activities and weeklong camps for the youth during summer break.

He thanked NMHU President Sam Minner for helping coordinate the opportunity to open the space.

“We have been working hard to prepare for this space for Makerspace programs for … Las Vegas youth, and it’s getting really close,” Ulibarri said.

Ulibarri said he expects programs to start in mid-February, and will coincide with his teaching of workshops for K-12 students. His goal is to generate an early interest in computer science.

© 2017 Las Vegas Optic. Reprinted with permission