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BeAM MakerSpace lessons on campus and abroad

Lindsey Pegram sits on a boulder in Uruguay
Lindsey Pegram in Maldonado, Uruguay

Lindsey Pegram (‘23) is excited to continue collaborating and learning after recently completing her bachelor’s degree in public health (BSPH) in Environmental Health Sciences and soon beginning pursuit of her master’s degree in environmental science and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Throughout her undergraduate work, Pegram found a home at the BeAM MakerSpaces to support her creativity while offering valuable experiences that shaped her decision to continue her studies at UNC.

Q: What first interested you in BeAM?

A: I first learned about the MakerSpace during my admitted students tour before I even decided to attend UNC as an undergraduate. I remember being fascinated with the tools and eager to learn how to use them myself. After deciding to come to UNC in fall 2019 – with the prospect of attending BeAM MakerSpaces heavily influencing that decision – I was eager to complete as much training as possible.

In my first semester, I took a course entitled “Experiencing Latin America” in which all students were tasked with completing an embroidery project, so I completed all necessary BeAM training to use that tool area for my project. I ended up creating a jacket with an embroidered American flag, in which I replaced the stars with hand drawn vectors of Latin and South American countries as an homage to the U.S. immigration crisis. I also hand-embroidered todos somos americanos at the bottom of the jacket, meaning “we are all American,” to stand in solidarity with those affected by immigration policies.

After completing this project and subsequently learning about other tool areas, I applied for a job at the MakerSpace and was hired as a Program Assistant in November 2019. I have been at BeAM ever since!

Pegram instructing students about sustainable making in Uruguay
Pegram instructing students about sustainable making in Uruguay

Q: What are the key takeaways and lessons you have gained from BeAM?

A: At their core, MakerSpaces are environments in which everyone can create, problem solve, and work together to complete a task. The primary objective of a MakerSpace is to instill in others that they are Makers regardless of their interests, experience level, or available materials.

My time at BeAM has taught me that although it is important to understand specialized technologies, the confidence and problem-solving skills you gain by the Making process is as important as the tools skills themselves. The most important message is that any individual can create a project, formulate a new idea, or make a difference with the resources and knowledge available to them. For this reason, MakerSpaces serve as physical locations that inspire innovation and also as reminders that through creativity and collaboration, we are all capable of making a difference.

Q: How has your BeAM experience presented opportunities outside of the MakerSpace?

A: The most notable opportunity that my time in the MakerSpace prepared me for was a U.S. embassy-funded fellowship to develop a MakerSpace at an English-learning center in Uruguay in June 2022.

As a Hispanic Linguistics major and a student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, this was a wonderful opportunity to combine my Spanish fluency and environmental interests by helping to establish a sustainable MakerSpace in Uruguay. While there, I sought to improve my Spanish communication, educate others about technological processes such as additive manufacturing and coding, encourage sustainability through the reutilization of recycled materials, and most importantly, remind people that they are makers regardless of their available resources, skill level, or personal interests.

This equitable MakerSpace policy was inspired by BeAM’s own open-door practice of inviting all patrons regardless of their skill levels, academic interests, physical capabilities, and personal backgrounds to create, explore, and solve problems. At other universities, MakerSpaces are often housed within a specific department or may only be targeted towards a specific demographic of students within engineering or computer science programs. BeAM at UNC invites individuals from all backgrounds to learn about machines, tools, and software that it offers to make whatever projects interest them. This approach reminds me that we are all capable of acquiring new skills and problem-solving together; I am eager to continue to implement this mindset both inside and outside of BeAM.

Pegram teaches a 3D printer workshop to employees of the Alianza MakerSpace in Montevideo, Uruguay
Pegram teaches a 3D printer workshop to employees of the Alianza MakerSpace in Montevideo, Uruguay

Q: Do you have any favorite memories at BeAM or any memorable projects?

A: A specific memory that I treasure was our work to manufacture face shields during the pandemic. Even though the Space is normally equipped for prototyping or small projects, together we transformed it into a small manufacturing facility. With help from staff members and volunteers, we worked together to assemble and package more than 40,000 face shields. We could not have completed that task without collaboration, which is one of the MakerSpace’s fundamental tenets. Other fond memories include the annual MakerFests, our new CoPs (Communities of Practice workshops), and the pre-holiday-project time right before winter break.

Q: How has BeAM influenced your career and next steps?

A: I am planning to pursue my master’s degree in environmental science and engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Ultimately, the goal is to use my language proficiencies in Spanish, French, and Portuguese to enhance health communication and implementation efforts of water and sanitation systems, especially in non-English-speaking communities.

I am eager to continue to work at and collaborate with the BeAM space throughout my time in graduate school. I am so happy that I can extend my time in the MakerSpace and I am eager to see where I end up in the future!