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RYOBI Tools, a product line known for innovative and versatile design, has outfitted the campus makerspaces with a range of tools and equipment

BEAM staff participate in training on the RYOBI tools.
BeAM staff participate in training on the RYOBI tools.

In UNC-Chapel Hill’s BeAM makerspaces, green is the new color of empowered creativity.

Thanks to the generosity of RYOBI Tools, a division of Techtronic Industries, the campus’ three makerspaces have been outfitted with an array of cordless power tools and other equipment, most of them clad in the product line’s distinctive lithium green.

“We pride ourselves in making our campus makerspaces accessible to all, which is why we are excited to be working with RYOBI to have these tools available to our student-makers,” said Kenny Langley, director of BeAM.

A student worker uses the new RYOBI tools.
A student uses the new RYOBI tools.

The donation of equipment includes hot glue guns, drills and impact drivers, cordless soldering irons, tabletop band saws, rotary tools, lighted magnifying glasses, benchtop workstations, wood carvers, craft cutters, fans, vacuums and myriad accessories such as batteries, chargers and equipment racks.

Langley said he and other BeAM staff were excited to work with RYOBI because of their emphasis on challenging traditional design concepts about how power tools should look and operate.

“At BeAM, we’re invested in ensuring that as many people as possible can use the tools we provide,” said Langley. “That can be something as simple as providing tools that don’t require the hand strength of a professional contractor to grip and operate.”

Another example Langley cited was the design of a simple utility knife. RYOBI’s model has a handle that is triangular instead of round. The ergonomic design makes it comfortable to hold, and it doesn’t roll off the table when you set it down.

Pallets of tools, some of which are not available commercially, began arriving over the summer. “Most of the items have arrived, but we’re waiting for the remainder of tools and organizational pieces to fully launch a revamped ‘BeAM 101’ with integrated RYOBI tools and mini-training videos,” said Langley. “BeAM 101” is the required training that all users of the makerspaces need to complete before gaining access to the tools. Staff received training from RYOBI before the semester began.

The campus’ central BeAM hub is in Murray Hall; other makerspaces are in Hanes Art Center and Carmichael Residence Hall. The spaces have equipment for wood- and metal working, textile arts, 3D printing and other capabilities. Students can use the spaces for classwork, research, entrepreneurial pursuits or recreational projects. The BeAM network of makerspaces is part of the department of applied physical sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As leaders in innovation, we are constantly looking to the future,” said Bobby Shaw, president of TTI’s Consumer Power Tools division that manages the RYOBI brand. Shaw is a 2007 alumnus of the University. “Through this relationship with UNC’s BeAM and makerspace program, we are inspiring, motivating and minting innovators and DIYers of the future. No matter their project, UNC students will have the power to do more with RYOBI.”

RYOBI was the lead sponsor of BeAM’s fall MakerFest on Nov. 29. Many of the tools were showcased at the event, which included demonstrations, workshops, competitions and hands-on maker challenges.

By Geneva Collins, College of Arts and Sciences

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