IF YOU have ever walked into the Yonsei-Samsung Library, you must have wondered at least once, “what is this wide space full of colorful chairs, whiteboards and a big TV screen?” That, dear Yonseians, is the Y-Valley: a place where you can explore creativity and freedom in order to turn ideas into reality. The Y-Valley has been a mystery for many students, with its novel introduction leaving many to wonder what its true purposes and uses are. The Yonsei Annals has therefore decided to investigate this mysterious space: this article will unravel details about the Y-Valley that we have obtained through our venture.
Founded in 2017, the Y-Valley is a creative working space on the first floor of the Yonsei-Samsung Library. The U-Lounge had been in its place, but on March 5, 2016, the school released grand plans of its reconstruction into the Y-Valley. The Annals met with Lee Won-sang, the manager of Yonsei’s Digital Media Team, to discover the central reasons behind the reconstruction.
“Students’ spending patterns of IT have drastically changed over the years,” said Lee. The U-Lounge was founded in 2007, when students seldom had portable computers, and it was not the norm for them to have access to advanced technology. At the time, the U-Lounge provided them with computers, touch displays and other digitalized tools, all of which arouse a sense of the future. However, students began to experience changes in their lifestyles—they started to watch videos through their cellphones and utilize laptops more than notebooks—which stimulated the reconstruction of such futuristic space. “We felt the need to catch up with these advancements,” said Lee. In order to keep pace with the developing IT, Yonsei University decided to recreate the U-Lounge into a place not for simply accessing technology, but for actively using technology to generate ingenious ideas and, beyond that, actualize these ideas into reality.
“The school policy started to advocate the rising culture of start-ups, which was another reason for the reconstruction,” said Lee. The school could not ignore this emerging trend of a newly surfacing and fastly growing business model of the contemporary society. The Y-Valley is structured in a way that student entrepreneurs can be inspired with ideas for starting their own start-ups. “The Y-Valley promotes a ‘co-working’ environment that is conducive to promoting the exchange of ideas between Yonseians from various fields,” Lee commented.
As aforementioned, the Y-Valley is situated in the Yonsei-Samsung Library. According to Lee, an estimate of ten thousand people walk in and out of this library every day, which implies that the same people cross the Y-Valley more than two times a day. This, in turn, means that the Y-Valley, with its open space that is equipped with diverse sections for a vibrant exchange of ideas, becomes a space that is readily accessible and largely familiar to many Yonseians. This comprehensiveness is aspired to create an environment that will bring about a novel vision among the student entrepreneurs.
“However, the Y-Valley is not only for the students who are thinking about start-ups,” Lee stressed. “We do not set any restrictions; anyone is welcome in the Y-Valley.” By creating an open space that welcomes all, the school aims for a place where creativity can spread naturally throughout the student body, through which the seeds of growth and innovation can be planted.
What constitutes the Y-Valley?
There are five different sections in the Y-Valley: Idea Commons, Medial Wall, Booths, Idea Pump, and Makerspace. They are constructed to fulfill their own distinct purposes and objectives, and the columns below will explore them one by one.
1. Idea Commons:
The Idea Commons is a space where students can freely share their ideas amongst themselves. The area is constructed like a café, where there are a variety of chairs, desks and decorative lamps. Besides those that are fixed to the ground, all furniture and items are movable, helping the students to find the most comfortable position in conducting their activities. “We tried to create a café effect, as people can concentrate well with some white noise,” said Lee. He also added, “With the open space, our hope is that the students will exchange their various ideas in the space, creating intentional and unintentional interactions.”
2. Media Wall
The Media Wall projects educative videos that focus on the interests of the students, usually featuring Yonsei alumni who are involved in start-ups. The Media Wall is situated right next to the Idea Commons: the intention was that students would constantly hear the audio projected from the Media Wall while doing their own activities. Through the constant involvement, students will naturally become familiar with the concepts of venture and enterprise.
3. Idea Pump
The Idea Pump is a whiteboard situated next to the Idea Commons. It is open to any students to write and share their ideas. There are often topics written on the board that provide some food for thought for the passerby, such as, “what would you do if you won the lottery?”
4. Booths and the Y-Valley Start-up Team
There are various booths in the Y-Valley which are accessible only for the members of the Y-Valley Start-up Team. Every semester, the Office of Library and Information selects 12 Y-Valley Start-up Teams. The Y-Valley Start-up Teams are provided with six booths in the Y-Valley, which are equipped with desks, chairs, and partition screens that promise a secluded and comfortable space for team meetings. They are also given the opportunity to open events in the Y-Valley, as well as gain additional credits when applying for programs held by Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation. Any group of students who are preparing to establish a start-up or participate in contests related to start-ups are eligible to apply.
The Makerspace is where ideas become actualized. “Our hope is that students who finish brainstorming their ideas in the Idea Commons come to the Makerspace to actually create their ideas into reality,” says Lee. The Makerspace is constructed of two main parts: making products, which includes activities such as prototyping, and data processing, which includes activities such as utilizing open source. For producing objects, various Emerging Technology and IoT gadgets that are not easily accessible in the general sphere, such as 3D printers and 3D scanners, are provided for free. “From last May, over seven thousand students have used the 3D printers. Each student can use the printer up to two hours a day, for free,” Lee explained.
As for the data processing, the Y-Valley provides access to various computer programs, such as those that are concurrently utilized by data scientists and developers. “There are no particular application forms to fill in when using the tools provided. Students can just come in, talk to me about what they have in mind, and start using them,” says Lee. If students want to learn about how to handle the tools, they are advised to participate in the seminar sessions that are also held in the Makerspace. “When students actually create things that can be marketed, we introduce them to Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation. This is how this whole process works,” Lee also commented.
The Future of the Y-Valley
“We are planning to open more events and lectures in the Y-Valley,” said Lee. By holding events such as trend talks and showcases that are unlimited in their topics, the Y-Valley hopes to become a forum of lively exchange of ideas. “Moreover,” Lee added, “we are planning to improve the Makerspace by expanding sessions for digital literacy.” By providing education on digital literacy, the Y-Valley also aims to equip the students with appropriate knowledge for their future careers.
Margaret Heffernan, a prominent business woman, once said, “for good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, and debate.” Thomas Edison, the co-founder of General Electric, also said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” Yonsei University created an atmosphere in which the process of devising and utilizing ideas can take place through the Y-Valley. The Idea Commons, Media Wall, Idea Pump and booths all encourage productive interactions among students, and the ideas are given life in the Makerspace. In the current society in which one good idea can open multiple doors to success, the Y-Valley provides Yonsei students with a very special platform. Yonseians should acknowledge this and try to utilize the Y-Valley to its full potential. Information about the sessions and updates on the Y-Valley can be found under the library tab of the Office of Library & Information website (http://library.yonsei.ac.kr/