Duke students have access to a box full of idea-generating technology this weekend.
The BetaBox, a “mobile creativity lab” developed by the startup Betaversity, is the size of a shipping crate and contains a range of high-tech tools to help students develop ideas for products and innovations. Rented by the Duke Innovations Co-Lab, the box will be available for use in the Bryan Center parking lot from Thursday through Sunday afternoon. Betaversity will hold workshops in the box throughout the weekend.
“We’re interested in the space before entrepreneurship happens,” Duke Innovation Co-Lab Director Michael Faber said. “We’re really interested in trying to get people to carry out those experiments and do those projects.”
The Co-Lab rented the BetaBox—which was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last week—to give students a space to explore their ideas and facilitate design thinking at Duke, Faber said. It contains tools such as 3D printers, microchips, laser cutters and software that will enable users to turn their ideas into reality.
“The best way to master something is to do it,” said Sean Maroni, founder and chief executive officer of Betaversity. “Learn by doing.”
Betaversity hopes that giving students the tools to get their ideas off the ground will make innovative practices more accessible. Schools along the East Coast are able to rent the BetaBox for approximately $1,500 a day, Maroni said.
“Our goal is to make hands-on learning more accessible to students through all sorts of different technology,” said Betaversity Director of Creative Nicholas Sailer. “It’s really letting students express their creative ideas and getting those creative ideas from their head into their hands.”
Many of the Betabox tools are already present at various locations around campus, but the goal behind the Betabox, Faber explained, is to provide all of the tools in one place. Faber added that because this is the Betabox's first visit to Duke, the Innovation Co-Lab is trying to determine whether students appreciate and utilize the space.
“What we wanted to do is to bring a space like this in for the weekend to just see how people would use it and hear from students about whether this is something that is of value to them,” Faber said.
Students ventured in and out of the BetaBox Thursday afternoon, thinking about ways to use the available equipment.
Junior Ouwen Huang said he hoped the BetaBox could introduce the Duke community to “maker” culture, which emphasizes hands-on learning and do-it-yourself projects.
“This box basically has everything you need to create anything,” Huang said. “Making stuff is amazing.”