The Agility Zone

Written by Benjamin Wiebe

This month, I had the privilege of going to the Agility Zone and interviewing Kevin to see what is going on. The Agility Zone has been open since 2019, when the Science Building opened at the University of Lethbridge. Since its opening, Agility has seen continued growth in student attendance – even with a pandemic shutting down the university for a year.

Entering the Agility Zone is fascinating. The moment you walk in, there are a plethora of creative objects looking at you. Whether it’s D&D miniatures that have been printed and painted or a shirt with a custom logo on a manikin, it stimulates the brain. The coolest part of viewing these creations is that they were all made with the technology in the room. Kevin was happy to share that the staff made these creations – the shirt was a notable new addition since Agility just got its graphic T-shirt press. The various 3D prints of skeletons or foldable dragons are intricately made, and it’s a promise to the students that they can have similar results.

While Kevin showed me around the room, there were students using the 3D printer, programming games with the computers or even working with a laser cutter. Kevin told me about the safety training protocol – even if you are completely unfamiliar with the technologies, the staff are willing to help you learn the skills needed to interact with the machines safely. Most importantly, the staff on-site don’t know everything – creativity and searching for new ways to do something are fundamental skills in the center. Kevin told me a story about a student who had been working with the 3D printer and used a completely different technique to do a tedious task in seconds. “Everyone brings their own skills, knowledge, creativity and learning to Agility, and I find myself learning far more than I teach each day,” Kevin said.

I’ve used the space previously, primarily to use the Meta Quest VR kit they have in the Agility Zone. As a student without disposable income (or a living space conducive to a VR setup), the ability to try out cutting-edge technology and a variety of gaming experiences called to me. I still go to the Agility Zone from time to time – mostly to get lost in Beat Saber for hours at a time. The physical exertion and stamina needed to engage with Beat Saber is like nothing else – and it provides a way to get exercise for those put off by the gym.

And yet, despite the many hours I have spent in that room, I was amazed to find out about the many different tools on site I had never used before. The laser cutter and milling machines are fascinating to me. I love YouTube channels like Mark Rober or Stuff Made Here – Engineers turned content creators who use machines like these to make fascinating robots and machines that are very, very cool. The machines they use are at Agility, and as students of the university, we have free access to them. 
“It’s a space where students can come to foster creativity or take a break. Even if you don’t want to engage with technology, Agility is another gathering space for students on campus,” Kevin told me. Agility isn’t just open to students – it’s open to anyone at the university. For professors looking to integrate technology into their classes, the Zone is available for use. The working staff wants to help people engage creatively with the real world, and some professors have already started using the space for ‘class trips.’

Agility is one of the coolest spaces on campus that anyone can use – and it’s worth checking out, especially if you want to think like an engineer and let your inner child play.

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