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

California State University, Northridge is among the largest and most diverse campuses in the CSU system with an enrollment exceeding 40,000 students, making it the ideal incubator for ‘maker culture’. CSUN is particularly adept at elevating our students and fueling the regional economy. CSUN’s 171 academic programs and engaged centers enjoy international recognition for excellence. The university offers accessible educational programs that empower students to pursue their dreams, and in particular careers that relate to science, engineering, and emerging technologies that are vital to our nation’s future success. CSUN students reflect the vibrancy and diversity of the region and experience the transformative effects of research and service. We provide students with the high-quality learning they need to succeed as engaged citizens of the 21st century and to thrive in an era of global interconnectedness. 

How does your institution foster maker culture?

The College of Engineering and Computer Science at CSUN is home to over 4,500 students and graduates approximately 550 students per year with undergraduate and graduate degrees in Engineering and Computer Science. It is renowned for its “hands-on” approach to learning that provides students with several excellent opportunities for undergraduate research, and laboratory work, as well as internships and industry experience.

In addition to excellent and distinctive programs in business, economics, the sciences, and sustainability, the College has built strong programs in manufacturing and related fields such as robotics, nanotechnology, mechatronics, renewable energy, materials science, computer science and applications development, and more. 

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

CSUN has a long standing commitment to promote advanced manufacturing and maker education. We offer one of the three ABET accredited Bachelor’s degree programs in Manufacturing Systems Engineering in the State of California. Over a decade ago we began redesigning our curriculum and laboratory spaces to support the CDIO initiative (Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate: In Mechanical Engineering this led to pioneering redesign of the curriculum to integrate CAD, Engineering Design, and a modern industry emulating design environment with laboratory space for project based learning. Our Manufacturing Systems Engineering program emphasizes Digital Manufacturing Technologies, Additive Manufacturing, Industrial Robotics, and Material Design and Synthesis. 

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

Manufacturing Systems Engineering students in the senior capstone design course are responsible for a major design-build robotics project, as a part of which they mentor high school students in a community service-learning mode. Senior design students also use the real world as their basic laboratory, by executing projects in local industry. Projects have included design and development of an Assisted Gripping Rig, an Automated Lift Jack system, an Automated Storage Cabinet, design of an improved packaging process for industrial adhesives and polymers, plant layout design for the production of a medical patient monitor, development of CAD and rapid prototyping models for a new product, and development of an ISO-9000 quality assurance system.

Mechanical Engineering offers five courses on mechanical design at the undergraduate level. In these courses students learn to synthesize and analyze products that are ready for Manufacturing. In addition we have recently created new courses on composite and polymeric materials focusing on novel materials with superior strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios. These are vital for emerging energy efficient products and new machines.

Through the College’s Ernie Schaeffer Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation we are developing programs to engage students in advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship utilizing the latest technologies, and 3-D Printers, complemented with advanced material characterization capabilities.

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

The College has a culture of supporting innovation and celebrates the success of its students through annual events such as the Project Showcase: successes include first place honors by our student teams in the national AeroDef Manufacturing Challenge (2013), the SHPE National Design Competition in 2011 (Living Green) and 2009 (Assistive Technology) and the 2012 and 2011 national Intelligent Ground Vehicle Championships. Notably the winners of the SHPE design competition have received support to patent their projects and explore commercialization.

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

The 5000 square foot Haas Automation Lab in the College of Engineering and Computer Science features rapid prototypers, 3-D Printers and the latest CNC machines and has supported generations of students over the past two decades.

State of the art CNC manufacturing facilities include the following:

  • CNC milling machine 50-taper geared head, 30hp 4-axis
  • CNC lathe 2 axis 6.5” chuck, 15hp
  • TM1 for initial student training
  • Brother WireEDM machine for precision and complex geometry

We have implemented several changes to the infrastructure of our Machine Shop to improve the safety and oversight of the area and provide improved access to making. With the help of a campus funded grant, a 3-day hands-on machining workshop has been developed and implemented where the students get to make a C-clamp. Each step is demonstrated and explained by one of the staff machinists, and then the students repeat the steps with supervision. At the end of the 3-day workshop they need to complete a safety test, and then if they are certified they are given future access to the CECS Machine Shop.

Also the CECS Machine Shop is in the process of being remodeled. The previous space was approximately 1,300 sq. ft. that hosted 4 manual mills, 3 manual lathes, band saws and drill presses, paint booth, etc. The remodel will expand the space to 3,200 sq. ft. that will host the following equipment. 6 manual mills, 5 lathes, band saws and drill presses, paint booth, 3D printers, CNC Tool Room mill and lathe, water jet, 3D Router, etc. This new space will allow us to train more students through the hands-on machining workshop and allow more student access to use the machine shop equipment. Before the workshop each of the senior design teams had about one or two students who could do the machining and the rest would be working on the design, etc. This would mean that the machining students would work with the staff machinists, to manufacture parts. After instituting the workshops, we have six to eight members of each student team able to machine, so the teams machine their own parts under the guidance of staff machinists.

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

The College’s Center for Engineering and Computer Science Research and Education has a long standing Design Clinic program that allows students and faculty to work on contemporary, industry supported design projects many of which involve manufacturing of a prototype and/or testing and characterization in one of the college’s advanced laboratories.

Through the College’s Ernie Schaeffer Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation we are developing programs to engage students and the community in advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship utilizing the latest technologies, and 3-D Printers, complemented with advanced material characterization capabilities. CSUN plays a vital role in AMP SoCal which is one of the 12 Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnerships around the country selected by the US Department of Commerce in summer 2014. The goal is to promote growth in the aerospace and defense industry throughout the region. Southern California aerospace and defense companies are the most innovative in the country—consistently developing and working on products that do not simply help aerospace and defense but also spawn new industries.

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

We work very closely with high schools to encourage students to pursue engineering by offering our “Introduction to Engineering” course to high school students for college credit through our ACCESS program. The program is anchored by high school teachers who serve as lab instructors in a dozen area high schools; including one of the finalists for the 2008 National Teacher of the Year- Mr. Lewie Chappelear of Monroe High School. Notably all schools in our program compete in the FIRST Robotics and FIRST VEX competitions that inspire confidence in students through the “hands-on” experiences they provide.

We are part of a consortium led by Glendale Unified School district that received a $ 6 Million grant in summer 2014 under the Governor’s California Community Partnership Trust grant which seeks to create certificate programs that support career pathways in entrepreneurship and manufacturing.

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

CSUN has extensive relationships with regional employers, including California’s manufacturing firms and the many military bases in the state.

The maker culture that infuses our programs has resulted in:

  • collaborative research projects that push forefront developments out into industry and practice quickly;
  • accessible education (on campus, on employers’ sites, and online);
  • collaboratively designed education and training programs (from more foundational to the most advanced levels on both general and highly specialized topics) for employers and their staff;
  • long-term and broadly based working relationships with community colleges in our region;
  • long-term and broadly based working relationships with K-12 institutions;
  • long-term and broadly based working relationships with the military;
  • extensive programs and services for veterans;
  • established international partnerships and links to international trade and global logistics;
  • working relationships with regional economic, industry, and workforce development groups; and
  • strong working relationships with national and international professional and industry groups, and with public and private universities in the region

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

CSUN is taking the lead in the Los Angeles region to serve as a respected source of talent and continuing education in engineering that serves a variety of industries including Aerospace, Biotech and Clean Tech to name a few. The College was named a Core University Partner by Northrop Grumman Corporation in 2013 based on the exemplary job that we do in preparing students for the work in the aerospace industry by providing hands-project experience in which our students can build on the core competencies derived from their classroom learning and expand their knowledge through work on real-life problems. Another notable example is the partnership between Aerojet-Rocketdyne and the College. With more than 250 CSUN alumni working at Aerojet Rocketdyne, the majority from CECS, the company has a powerful stake in these collaborations. Aerojet Rocketdyne is particularly interested in technical collaborations, and some of the recent projects involve the design and development of an advanced phase change pressurization system, and ultrasonic leak detection. Another recent success story is “Pick My Solar: ”, the first portfolio company in the Los Angeles Clean Tech Incubator (LACI@CSUN) by a CSUN alum Max Aram from our Manufacturing Systems Engineering and Management department.