Stepping into Cal Poly’s Innovation Sandbox is like walking into a technology convention. The humming of 3-D printers fills the room as they bring conceptual designs to life. Students don the latest virtual reality headsets, transporting them to an imaginary, matrix-like realm.
The Sandbox is an on-campus work-space located at the Bonderson Engineering Project Center (building 197) and serves as a resource for students interested in modern technology. However, the majority of students who spend time there are engineers.
This is something Innovation Sandbox President Kirby Ransberger would like to see change once it moves to Robert E. Kennedy Library’s Hub24 zone, hopefully at the beginning of spring quarter.
“We’re going to see a lot more people and a lot more people are going to see us,” Ransberger said. “That means a lot more traffic, a lot of more ideas and a lot more passion.”
Put on by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the goal of the Innovation Sandbox is to inspire creative thought and innovative designs by connecting students with a variety of modern machines and gadgets. Students can use these resources for free to improve upon class projects or just for entertainment.
With more space in the library, the Sandbox is increasing the amount of equipment and tools they provide. Additions will include a photo booth with a camera for students to take pictures of their designs, computers equipped with Adobe Creative Suite, sewing machines, a 3-D scanner, two virtual reality setups, five more 3-D printers and more.
“We hope that with the new crazy outlandish technology that we have, students can look at their problems in a completely different light,” Ransberger said.
This year, the number of active members that frequent the Sandbox increased from about 15 to 30 student volunteers. By the time the Sandbox moves to Kennedy Library, Ransberger hopes to see that number increase.
“We hope to expand to between 50 and 100 people for staffing and volunteers,” he said. “We are really going to benefit most from having people with so many different backgrounds to really help us become a multidisciplinary practice.”
A hidden gem tucked away on the outskirts of campus, the current location of the Sandbox is a bit underexposed, Ransberger said.
“I think we are definitely hidden,” he said. “We hope to leave that behind us when we move to the library, and we hope it changes the library into a place where you look forward to going and trying something new and inspiring.”
Cal Poly entrepreneurship professor Jim Valdez said both students and the environment will benefit from the Sandbox’s placement in Kennedy Library.
“The library is still a hub for students looking for additional resources,” Valdez said. “Moving the Innovation Sandbox there is going to make it open to a lot more people who aren’t exposed to that technology through their curriculum.”
Valdez introduces his students to the Sandbox in Introduction to Entrepreneurship (BUS 310). He hopes the Sandbox will provide a resource for non-business and non-engineering students to turn their ideas into real designs as well.
“We’re encouraging students from every college to get more involved and take some of their ideas forward,” Valdez said. “I think the Sandbox really incentivizes that by providing a unique set of tools to students who may be interested.”
Compared to other universities, Cal Poly is a little late in the technology area, he said.
“We’ve come a long way very rapidly,” Valdez said. “With facilities like the Innovation Sandbox, we’re getting into a position where we have a strong program.”
Industrial Technology senior Ramin Parvin is an active user of the Sandbox and is excited to see how the technology will be utilized by students from all different colleges.
“One of the main reasons having the sandbox in the library will appeal to all students is it’s probably a lot less intimidating,” he said. “When it moves into the library, it insinuates that everybody is welcome. A lot of people may not feel comfortable right now because they don’t know what it is, and it seems very advanced.”
Parvin primarily uses the Sandbox to improve upon his designs for class, but the space should be used for more than just that, he said.
“It’s super unique that we have a place where we can go into and use the technology for our own interests, not only assignments,” Parvin said. “Twenty years ago, this kind of creativity wouldn’t be possible, and unless you’re an engineer, this technology won’t be free to use once you graduate. I think just going in there and trying something completely new is something all students should do.”