NORMAN — Kevin Blosser stood in the basement of Oklahoma Memorial Union Tuesday afternoon, turning a crescent wrench over and over in his hands.
“That's amazing to me,” he said, waving the wrench. “You could just print out this — a tool.”
The wrench had been made just a few hours before, using one of the 3-D printers in the University of Oklahoma's new One University storefront in the student union. The area, which opened last week, is equal parts university store and technology playground.
Blosser, 22, said he walked past the store and saw the 3-D printers inside and had to take a closer look. As he stood next to one of the machines nearby printing out a tiny model of the Eiffel Tower, Blosser said he was amazed by the possibilities the printers presented.
Those printers are one of the main draws at the store, said David Goodspeed, OU's campus stores engagement manager. The center, which is located in the space formerly occupied by OU's bookstore, has garnered several visitors in the week since it opened.
The space features several of OU's digital offerings, including 3-D printers, a collection of electronic textbooks and Google Liquid Galaxy, a hands-on digital exploration system. The site also includes touchable screens and several computers featuring Leap Motion, an interactive system that reads hand and finger movements.
Goodspeed said the area is designed to allow OU students, faculty and staff to play with the latest technology the university has been able to find, and be inspired by it.
The store's Google Liquid Galaxy area includes a large computer display that allows the user to use Google Earth software to look at areas all around the world and elsewhere. Users can look at sites as close as the Denver Art Museum and as far away as landing sites on Mars.
Goodspeed said he hopes to see students come into the center to look at the equipment that's available and figure out how their areas of study might make use of them. For example, he said, a student in the architecture program might use the center's 3-D printers to make a model of a building they'd designed for a class project.
The center also focuses on promoting electronic textbooks that students can use on e-readers like iPads, he said.
OU faculty members have already begun using electronic textbooks in the hopes of saving students several hundred dollars of books per semester. Last year, OU sociology professor Kelly Damphousse began using a free electronic textbook developed at Rice University. Damphousse said the book covered the same material as the book he'd been using, at a fraction of the cost.