Course Profile

Goals of the Course

The broad goal of this interprofessional course is to allow pre-professional, pre-nursing, and engineering students to leverage maker technology to produce and communicate solutions to current challenges in community health. Communication between disciplines that impact each other but may have different biases and goals is important and is facilitated through teamwork. Students develop solutions to a community health challenge related to metabolic syndrome throughout the semester. The instructors serve as facilitators and guides while students work to develop their solutions. This process ensures that students have ownership of their project as an engaged team and that students grow in their problem-solving, and collaboration skills. The course is taught in the JMU MakerSpace as a way to foster creative problem solving, collaboration skills, and knowledge of technologies that may shape their professions’ future.

Who is it designed for?

The course is available to undergraduate pre-professional Biology, Engineering, and pre-Nursing students. This version of the course is designed for students interested in applications of technology in the medical fields.

Learning Objectives

By course end student can expect to be able to:

  • Apply problem solving skills to an actual community health challenge for vulnerable populations.
  • Use collaboration skills to work together with a group of diverse pre-professionals.
  • Engage in self analysis to identify systemic factors relevant to supporting quality team work.
  • Evaluate personal strengths and their applications to leadership and participation in professional teams.
  • Discuss the ethical, legal, and practical implications of applying novel technologies, particularly for use with vulnerable populations.
  • Produce and communicate a tangible product using MakerSpace technology that has the potential to improve a community health challenge.
  • Evaluate feasibility, potential impact, and limitations of potential solutions.

Maker skills it develops

This course helps students develop creative problem solving, empathetic design practices, interprofessional communication skills, and prototyping skills. Students are expected to become proficient at the empathetic design process as well as interprofessional communication. Creative problem solving and realization of a product through prototyping are expected to be emerging skills that will need further refinement after the course. 


There are no pre-requisites for this course. 

Skills, Tools and Technologies Used

Students use 3d printing, virtual reality, laser cutting, and engraving. Some students may have had access to these technologies, particularly the engineers, though not all, so we formally introduce these tools. Students are not expected to have any prior knowledge of these tools and technologies. A staff member, proficient in using the technologies, assists students in their use of the technology.

Key Examples and Prior Work

Collaborative spaces - The course is held in an open-concept room and workspace and all the furniture is re-configurable. There are pods for the teams to work at and teams can communicate with each other digitally through the pod technologies. The space with the maker technologies is central to the space to foster collaboration and idea sharing.

Experimenting to learn - Creating prototypes to answer questions, get feedback, and gain knowledge.

Key Resources

Required Texts: 

Kelly, T., Kelly, D., (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. New York, NY. Crown Business.

Lipson, H., Kurman, L. (2014). Fabricated: The new world of 3D printing. John Wiley & Sons.

Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths based leadership great leaders teams and why people follow. Gallop Press.

Skloot, R. (2011). The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. New York, NY. Random House.

Example Assignment

Course project:

Teams of students will use MakerSpace technology to develop a solution to the community health challenge of metabolic syndrome. Students use empathy in the design of their solution and interview potential end-users. There are multiple benchmarks along the way including an alpha prototype demonstration 4 weeks before the final prototype is delivered. This project provides a group of students from diverse areas of study the chance to interact and solve a real-world problem. Students find this to be an important motivator. Additionally, students are required to use the MakerSpace in their solution finding, thus acquiring a new skill and knowledge about a disruptive technology while the navigate communicating with students from a discipline outside of their own. 

Lessons Learned

- Communicating a common goal to a diverse set of students is challenging. Be prepared to stay the same thing in multiple ways.

- Students that have traditionally not been exposed to MakerSpace technologies are timid about trying and failing. We had a class conversation early on about the advantages of failure and how we learn from failure. It helped to ease the fear of just diving in.

- Since the problem to solve was not defined for the students, we had to coach the teams through several rounds of defining the problem/need related to metabolic syndrome.