As an instructor of engineering design, I make makers. I use my years of experience in the engineering field to help and give students the information and the tools they need to become makers.
Personally, I enjoy using my design skills to create art using the advanced tools that I teach every day. I create layered wood art using CAD and a laser cutter.
I’ve enjoyed making contributions to many student design projects that were for the benefit of our community. From helping to design a replacement prosthesis, to advising a group creating a motorized vehicle for a special needs child. I cherish anytime I can be involved in a project that will help people.
I’ve become a master of solid modelling using Solidworks or other CAD tools. I’ve been using these software packages for about 20 years, and I’ve been constantly increasing my knowledge base. The challenges presented by the always advancing student projects keep me interested and invested, and push me to learn more so that I can pass this info onto the students.
My biggest challenge has been trying to develop a system or curriculum that will best allow me to translate my years of knowledge and experience to the students. It’s a challenge to deliver this info in a way that won’t overwhelm the student, but instead allow them to develop the tools to push their understanding forward.
I believe Maker culture is defined by the people who have decided that they aren’t satisfied with the world around them. They believe that they have a responsibility to push things forward. They see a problem or a product and know that they can make it better. They enjoy learning new skills and challenging themselves to create and innovate.
I feel that Making is changing our campus for the better, in that it is fostering a spirit of cooperation between students of different disciplines. Interesting projects draw students together to work and share their knowledge in a way that we haven’t been able to get right with our curriculum. It creates a more well-rounded engineer.
Maker culture promotes the idea that the solutions to problems don’t need to come from the big companies and institutions. The next breakthrough could come from a girl in her garage and the culture fosters and encourages itself to push for these advances.
As educators, we have to find a way to help the students balance their love of making and their need for traditional learning. Being a self-taught maker is a fantastic thing, but the university’s staff and faculty have an enormous knowledge base and set of experiences to offer the students.
I believe that Making is a fantastic way for students to apply the knowledge they are getting at the university. The ‘a-ha!’ moment comes more often from these exercises than from a lecture. I believe that Making can give a student the passion for engineering and design that will help them become better engineers, and in turn, help them make a difference in our world for the better.
It can be intimidating or confusing figuring out where to start. I advise students to start small. Pick a project that includes some new skill or technique that they haven’t used yet. Start filling your ‘skill toolbox’ slowly. You don’t need to think of a huge idea first. If you don’t know where to start, copy something you’ve seen elsewhere. The important part when you’re getting started is learning the skills, not the end product.