Bill Pugh, computer science professor emeritus, jokes that he is “very bad” at retirement.

A pioneer in programming languages and software engineering, he taught at Maryland for nearly a quarter century and became a successful entrepreneur. For the last several years, he’s been a passionate booster and fundraiser for the new Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering.

Now he’s giving students there the freedom to explore their ideas in that building, signing an agreement yesterday to give $500,000 to staff and operate the Jagdeep Singh Family makerspace. He and his wife, Lisa Orange, are also making another $250,000 gift to coordinate the campus’ makerspaces, designated areas equipped for students to invent and create. The gift was a significant boost for Giving Day, the university's annual 24-hour fundraising marathon.

“The Iribe Center was designed as an environment to encourage students to be inventive, to think about what they can do with technology and to partner with people outside their disciplines,” Pugh said. “They’ll come here, see research with drones and robots, art projects infused with technology that are done by students, and they’ll be excited to get involved.”

A $1 million donation from Jagdeep ’86 and Roshni Singh provided funds to support the 5,300-square-foot makerspace, affectionately called the Singh Sandbox. The name is a nod to the first Sandbox makerspace that opened in 2016 in the Computer Science Instructional Center.

“It’s so important for students to gain experience beyond the traditional computer science curriculum that is often focused on software,” Jagdeep Singh said. “Makerspaces are a wonderful way for students to work with tangible hardware and apply real-life problem-solving skills to create something in the real world.”

The Singh Sandbox will be guided by the interests of students from any major, who can make something even if it’s unrelated to research or a class. Consisting of a large, open collaboration area and six workshops on the first floor, the Sandbox provides specialized equipment that isn’t available elsewhere on campus except to students and researchers in specific departments. The facilities include two laser cutters, a fully equipped wood shop, a large-format printer, a vinyl cutter, a metal milling machine, two types of 3D printers, an advanced electronics fabrication and analysis shop, sewing machines, hot glue guns, a button maker and more.

The $250,000 gift will support the compiling of data about makerspace resources on campus and development of infrastructure, documentation and programming for the campus maker community. The funds will be administered by Terrapin Works, a collection of digital manufacturing resources provided to the campus and beyond. Terrapin Works is managed by the A. James Clark School of Engineering; makerspaces are available in other units such as the Department of Physics, University Libraries and the College of Information Studies.  

Pugh and Orange have been strong supporters of innovation in computer science education over the years, donating nearly $1.5 million to UMD, including to fund the original Sandbox. Teaching students about innovation and entrepreneurship, he said, means giving them the skills to turn an idea into a reality.

“You have to figure out if building your idea is feasible, and what technology you should use,” he said. “You bounce it off other people. Maybe you start implementing it and find it isn’t going to work, or maybe the technology works but it just isn’t compelling, so you pivot. And you keep pivoting until you eventually come up with something that’s either useful to you or wows your friends and family.”