Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab brings people together through technology

The Sutherland Foundation Innovation Lab in Hale Library offers a variety of tools for all types of creative endeavors. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Located on the first and second floors of Hale Library, the Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab gives Kansas State students, faculty and staff access to cutting-edge technology.

“This is a place where K-State faculty, staff, students, researchers and the community kind of all come together in one place to have different types of conversations, collaborate, learn from each other, share life stories, have access to the equipment, programming and services that we offer.” Jeff Sheldon, associate director of the Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab, said.

Sheldon said the talks for an innovation lab began in 2018 after Hale Library caught fire.

“After the fire, we had no idea what was going to happen at that point because we knew the building was in a lot of trouble,” Sheldon said. “Then, we were told that the Sunderland Foundation had worked with the K-State Foundation to provide a generous financial gift and that in turn rebooted the process and took us up to the second floor. It kind of made the whole thing much more grandiose, and we’re very thankful for that.”

Sheldon said the donation took what was supposed to be a first-floor renovation to the next level.

“The attitude changed really quickly from being one of loss to being one of opportunity,” Sheldon said. “Having the ability to now accommodate the role technology plays in people’s work lives is significant with the Hale rebuild.”

Sheldon said the original renovation turned into a chance to bring people together.

“Having a place that could be an incubator of ideas, bringing people from diverse communities together and talking about how the future would look, how technology would play into the classroom, exposing people to technologies and programming that they might not have otherwise, that’s what this all became,” Sheldon said.

The lab, which is a partnership between the division of Information Technology and Hale Library, features a maker-space, media studio, sound studio and more.

“The media studio is kind of like the creator’s haven,” Jahvelle Rhone, co-chair of the Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab coordinating committee, said. “It’s just a cool hub for people to come. You’ve got everything from video editing to audio editing to digital conversion. It’s also a great space to just study and work.”

The lab also offers access to state-of-the-art technology such as laser-cutters, 3D printers and a large-format scanner.

“The key to all of this is the feedback and input that people provide,” Sheldon said. “We are trying to provide a baseline of technologies and opportunities that people can wrap their head around, and then from there we then start getting more and more towards the edge and trying to bring out newer and newer technologies to expose people to.”

The IT equipment check-out desk, located on the second floor of the lab, gives students access to equipment.

“We check out different kinds of equipment to students or faculty and so we have laptops, cameras, video equipment, projectors, stuff like that, and basically it’s all for free,” Brooke Younger, sophomore in supply chain management and IT equipment desk employee, said. “If kids need equipment for schoolwork or if their laptop goes out, they can come to us.”

Rhone said the next step is continuing to create an innovative culture in the lab.

“We want to actually bring in faculty, staff and students to the conversation and say, ‘How does this intertwine with your major? Your objectives? Your goals?'” Rhone said. “We’re trying to cultivate an innovative culture where we bring in faculty from all different walks and different departments to create true culture and diversity.”

The Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab is open from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information or to reserve a space, students, staff and faculty can visit the K-State libraries website.

“We’re going to see some of the next great inventions and prototypes and ideas come straight from this lab, which is really cool,” Rhone said. “We’ll see entrepreneurs, we’ll see inventors, we’ll see new ways of solving problems, and I think that’s what innovation is all about.”