As an institution, how would you define 'maker culture'?

Boise State University has been a strong proponent of hands-on learning with many curricular and extra-curricular opportunities. Currently, the “maker culture” would probably be characterized as disperse, with activities occurring among various clubs, departments, and classrooms. This has been changing however, over the past year. As described below, five notable efforts are defining the Boise State maker culture: 1) creation of the College of Innovation & Design, 2) adoption of the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) model, 3) establishment of the Collab in the Albertsons Library, 4) proposed development of a campus Maker Space, and 5) the Educational Technology Department’s offering of online graduate courses for STEAM educators in making mobile apps, video, games, animation, and simulation.

How does your institution foster maker culture?

The university provides mentoring, tools and space to promote multiple student clubs that are involved in extra-curricular maker experiences. As an example, in the College of Engineering we have a full machine shop dedicated to student use that is supervised approximately 60 hours per week and is accessible seven days per week. While the facilities, staff and faculty advisors are provided by the university, the culture that is developing is more of a “grass roots” interest and demand coming from the students.

Albertsons Library has added a number of tools, computer lab space, and assistance to students from any major who are interested in collaborating on maker projects. By offering these tools and services to students of all majors to work together, we help facilitate transdisciplinary innovations. The tools being supplied are checkout of webcams, a DSLR camera, iPads, and raspberry pi kits. Equipment that is available for use by request include a green screen, and the 3d printer. Additionally, there are four computer terminals that allow for students to edit creative maker projects using the Adobe Creative Cloud. Video and audio editing software is available on every computer terminal in the library.  

How are you approaching maker education with your current or future curricula?

The most significant advancement supporting maker education is the recent approval for Boise State University to establish the College of Innovation & Design. A component which will be embedded in this new college will be Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP.) This effort is described in a press release from the provost below:

“The college also will house a new kind of research effort that is being pioneered along with a handful of other research universities — Georgia Tech, Purdue, Michigan, Indiana and the University of Washington. Vertically Integrated Projects — VIPs — will create teams of undergraduate and graduate students from various disciplines to solve complex, multi-year, real-world problems faced by industry and community partners. The learning is truly experiential and based on the demands of solving a problem and creating a product to be implemented in the real world. Students may participate up to three years, working on the same project, with the same team for the duration. They will earn academic credit toward their own degrees, but their transcripts also will validate their participation in the VIP project with a badge that certifies their competence.”

The Department of Educational Technology will also being offering, during Fall 2015, a new graduate elective course on making called Maker Tech: Hybrid Computing and Creative Tinkering for STEAM Education. In this fully online course, the students (i.e., mostly K-16 educators) will analyze, make, and apply maker tech for their teaching and learning contexts. They will leverage the power of programming, and tinker digital and physical artifacts for learning/practicing/applying knowledge in science, technology, art, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM).”

What are the key programs, initiatives or classes that support the development of maker skills?

In addition to the VIP program described above, maker skills are emphasized throughout the engineering curriculum. Senior design projects in the electrical, mechanical and materials fields require significant application of applied, hands-on design, fabrication and assembly skills.

There are many classes with a creative maker component on campus. The Honors college teaches a course called Intro to Design Thinking, many first year writing classes have a digital design component, the University Foundations courses have a digital website or other digital creation component, many English courses have podcasting assignments, Digital History requires students to create websites, augmented reality, and digital videos, ITM 305 has a video component, and many other Business courses require app development, Geosciences requires students to create a video, and the new Gaming, Interactive Media, and Mobile major in the College of Innovation & Design will develop digital tools that promote maker culture. In the past decade, the Department of Educational Technology has offered a series of emerging technologies courses in making mobile apps, creating video, and developing games and simulation. These courses are offered online, which provides flexibility to the students and increases impact and dissemination of educational making across the globe due to the Department’s diverse student populations.

How are your students involved in making? Are there maker groups or organizations on campus organized by students?

The students are the primary drivers for the creation of clubs such as:

  • Aeodesign
  • Concrete Canoe
  • HPV Club
  • Shell EcoChallenge
  • Green Speed
  • Baja

Some of these clubs are sponsored in part by national organizations. Others such as the Green Speed club is a group of students who came together with the goal of breaking the land speed record for vegetable powered trucks. The team successfully built the truck, and claimed the record.

As another example, the Aero Design group participated in the SAE Aero Design West competition, winning first place in the International Design category.

Albertsons Library has been hiring students to help design the makerspaces and training them to train other students on these tools. 

Give a snapshot overview of the primary facilities, technologies and tools that campus makers have or will have access to?

The COEN Student Shop provides a full set of machining tools to engineering students.

The Albertsons Library Collab provides access to all students. Tools include 3D printing, laser image capture, circuit prototyping, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and typically computing facilities.

How does your school engage with the maker community at large?

This is an area that the university is beginning to address with the creation of the College of Innovation & Design.

What partnerships (informal or formal) do you have with makers and/or community organizations outside of campus?

Albertsons Library has partnered with libraries that have makerspaces all across Idaho and beyond to help develop their space. 

What has been the impact of maker culture on your campus?

The student experience, particularly in the College of Engineering, has been enriched by the strong emphasis on making in student clubs and senior design.

Students, faculty, and staff have displayed a great deal of interest in developing a maker culture which directly provide them with marketable skills upon graduation. 

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

The Green Speed Club described above has spun out as a 501c3 organization. They continue to purse speed records using vegetable oil as a fuel source, and promote the use of renewable fuel technologies.

Returning students have gained new skills and confidence in digital fluency skills by learning how to create videos.