Maker Profile

Who are you and what do you make?

My first and foremost connection to making is as a fan. At Cornell Tech I bridge our applied sciences graduate campus to the NYC public schools in an effort to make building things tech part of every NYC student’s education. Obviously making is one of the best opportunities we can give students to build something using digital tools that has meaning for them. I love that maker spaces give students ownership over materials, the opportunity to experiment and iterate, and the responsibility of interacting with “adult” tools. I met with a group of middle school students in their maker space recently. The librarian who leads their maker club told me a student said recently, “Wow. You really trust us.”

What's the favorite thing you've made?

I’m a pretty low tech maker. A close friend of mine published his first book recently, and I made a wooden box replica of the cover, which involved cutting tiny letters from felt, engineering the gluing of a horseshoe, and a little embroidery. It came out really well, except that when I was done I opened the box and realized it opened backwards! Oh well. I still really love it and he was very excited to get it.

What's your go-to Maker skill and/or tool?

Hot glue gun. Because it’s effective, cheap, always does what you tell it to and is a little bit dangerous.

What's been your biggest Making challenge?

My biggest maker challenge is creating more maker spaces for students here in NYC, where space is at a premium. There are many teachers trying to build a more robust maker movement here, and I’m meeting them and learning more every day. I haven’t overcome it yet but I believe that talking to more people, and generating more enthusiasm for the power of making for students, is my best strategy. This summer Cornell Tech will be hosting a conference on K-12 tech education that will have a big maker focus.

On a personal level, my biggest Making challenge is my own need for perfection. Also still working on that.

How would you define 'Maker culture'?

Makers give themselves permission to be fearless. They believe they are builders and so they build.

How is Maker culture transforming your campus?

Our new maker space is still growing, but already it has involved people who might otherwise not have had an outlet for harnessing their tech creativity.

How can Making contribute solutions to big problems?

I believe that the rapid prototyping opportunities that making present give us the chance to test, fail, iterate, test on our own, making problem solvers out of all of us.

What are the challenges facing Making in higher education?

Our big constraints are space, financial resources, and the people to train, operate and maintain our maker space. We’re figuring that out now.

Why do you think Making is an important 21st century skill for students?

I believe that different materials privilege different learners. To capture every child and provide an authentic learning experience, we need the depth and breadth that making brings. Unlike straight coding, students can interact and be successful with materials in the maker space right away. For many students, this can be a powerful context in which to understand and harness technology in a meaningful way.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to Making?

There is such a rich a vibrant maker learning and teaching community. Reach out online, in meetup events, at makerspaces and at conferences like MakerFaire to learn more. And be fearless!