NWA Maker Faire host Fayetteville Public Library is home to a state-of-the-art Center for Innovation, or CFI, open to the community and accessible to all with a library card. Community members can create and learn in this space with resources ranging from fully equipped video and audio recording studios to a VR studio and vehicle simulators for workforce development. One unique innovation space is the Koenig Family Fabrication and Robotics Lab equipped with multiple 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers, and Arduinos for the community to expand their skills. Featured Maker Bellamy Brooks is a regular in the “Fab Lab,” and recently shared her experiences with Fayetteville Public Library:

How did you learn about the Center for Innovation?

“It’s actually a really funny story how I learned about it. I just came to library when it first opened–the renovated section–and I was walking around, just touring the place with my boyfriend and we ran into Melissa [CFI manager] over by the theatre . . . she was about ten minutes away from leaving for the day and was like, ‘Hey, you two want a tour?’ just randomly. So she gave me a tour of all the new facilities in more of a back-behind-the-scenes kind of way, and as we were doing the tour I was saying, ‘Oh, I know about this! I know about that!’ and eventually we landed in [the Fab Lab], and I was like, ‘Oh, I know all these things about this and I would love to do this kind of stuff.’ So, months before it even opened, I was in here helping her Beta test stuff in the Fab Lab.”

How would you describe the Center for Innovation to someone?

“I would describe it as [an] open, creative space for people to enhance their own creative endeavors. If they have something that they want done, but don’t have the tools to do it, the tools are here. A lot of us don’t have access to industrial-grade machines . . . having access to these things, especially through a resource like the library, making it free-ish, makes it really awesome and accessible.”

What are your favorite suites or tools offered here?

“Well, unfortunately I haven’t had the pleasure of using anything else besides the Fab Lab, so obviously the Fab Lab is my favorite . . . I used to be really into 3D printing, and I’m a 3D sculptor in my free time [and] as a freelance artist as well, but the laser cutter–I’ve always wanted to get into laser cutting, but it’s such a weird hobby, like, I didn’t think I was going to start getting into it, but it’s been really fun . . . Things like the laser cutter, you just have infinite possibilities of what you can do with it. So that’s my favorite of the things that are in here for me.”

What is your favorite thing you’ve made in the CFI?

“I think [my] favorite thing that I’ve made is a–it’s a game called Pai Sho. It kind of looks like Chinese checkers or Go, and you have tiles that you can place around the board. This is a game that doesn’t exist in real life, it’s actually from a TV show, and there’s a big fan community around this game that they invented rules for, so there’s no official anything for this, and the only way to play it is by either paying hundreds of dollars for a custom carved wood board or laser cutting it. I think that’s my favorite thing I’ve built so far.”

How has the CFI impacted your life or work?

“Well, it’s impacted me in a couple ways. It’s given me more professional opportunities, which has been exciting–being able to teach classes about this kind of thing. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. It also just gives me that extra edge if I’m wanting to push my hobbies to the limit or if I want to take this and use these skills professionally, as well.”

Why do you think this space is important for the community?

“Well, we just need more maker spaces, and this is now one of them. There used to be, like, one or two in all of Northwest Arkansas, and having another one–especially one that’s as accessible as this is amazing. So, we’re going to see a lot more people making their own things, I think, by having [maker spaces] like this.”

What future projects do you have planned or want to do?

“A lot of the things that I make are props for board games or tabletop gaming. So, expanding on the creations that I’ve already made, which could be terrain for a game or whatever else–I don’t think I have anything big I want to work on right now. I do want to redo the Pai Sho table and make it more ornate, but that’s the only thing I have on my mind right now.”

What about the CFI do you think is important for people to know?

“One of the things that is really nice about it is that it’s accepting of people of all skill levels. So, you could be a complete beginner or [an] advanced user and be able to get something out of it.”

Bellamy Brooks will be featured at the Northwest Arkansas Maker Faire leading kitbashing workshops.