Our advocacy of maker culture lies in promoting a maker mindset among our students. We believe that makers successfully demonstrate four key qualities:
Makers are intrinsically motivated to pursue projects and ideas that interest them
Makers know what they know, and what they can learn
Makers understand projects are perfected through testing and revision
Makers embrace failure.
Our genuine belief is that students who develop these abilities will not just become successful students–they’ll also become successful people.
Elon University supports and fosters maker culture in multiple disciplines and in multiple forms. Our most prominent initiative is the Maker Hub, a makerspace we built into one of our residence halls. The Maker Hub is open seven days a week to all Elon students, faculty and staff. The Maker Hub’s professional and student staff facilitate several events, workshops, meetups, and training sessions throughout the academic year to pull in new and experienced makers. We actively seek out faculty partners, and collaborate with them to incorporate maker projects into their pedagogy. The Maker Hub’s secondary role is to serve as a hub for maker activity on campus.
In Spring 2016, the Maker Hub also launched a grant funding program for students called Elon Kickbox. Elon Kickbox is (literally) a box stuffed with design thinking training and exercises, resources, and a Visa gift card with $300. Though students are required to track their expenses, they have full control over what they purchase for their project (even if it’s taking someone to lunch for advice). You can learn more about our first round of Elon Kickbox projects at www.elon.edu/makers/kickbox
Elon has made a sustained commitment to integrating design thinking into our curriculum from the first year onward. These include:
At the very start of their experiences, students may be part of Elon 101 courses – “Designing Your Way Forward” – that approach the “wicked problem” of creating one’s college and life paths through design thinking. Elon 101 sections based on this approach are currently being piloted.
Beyond their first year, students may elect to enroll in an immersive semester experience – four seamlessly integrated courses offered as a single cohorted experience – that utilizes design thinking approaches to generate solutions for local community issues and challenges. The first such immersive semester – “Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation” – will be offered in the spring of 2017. Students will work with the Alamance County Wellness Collaborative to explore issues related to general wellness in the community.
Student will also gain increased access to pop-up courses surrounding and arising out of innovative programs across the campus, including the immersive semester experience and Elon’s already thriving entrepreneurship program.
The Maker Hub is located in a residence hall, which requires special care toward the types of equipment we bring into the space. Because we share a wall with a student resident, we’ve made it a point to be a good neighbor by avoiding equipment that exceeds certain sound levels. We’ve also opted to stick to tools with a “Kitchen Level” of danger. You can’t be cut or burned any worse than you could in your own kitchen. Maker Hub guests have access to the following equipment:
Several 3D printers, 3D scanners, and two high-powered PCs with 3D CAD/CAM software: https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/equipment/3d-printing/index.html
Raspberry Pi 2, BeagleBone Black, Arduino, and Arduino Uno: https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/equipment/computing/index.html
Various electronics options, from LittleBits to soldering stations: https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/equipment/electronics/index.html
eTextile equipment and supplies, including several Pfaff sewing machines, Lilypad Arduino, knitting needles and yarn, and Fosshape 300: https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/equipment/e-textiles-and-fabrics/index.html
Assorted general tools, including the Silhouette CAMEO vinyl cutter, mixed tool kits, a Dremel set, paper cutting tools, and a smartphone repair kit: https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/equipment/basic-tools/index.html
To accommodate students whose ambition extends beyond the capabilities of our space, we’ve formed strategic and supportive partnerships with more advanced spaces on campus. Two prominent examples include a partnership with The Container Space (https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/location/the-container-space.html), a woodworking design studio and prototyping shop operated at Elon’s Loy Farm. Though the space is formally operated by faculty and students in the Environmental Studies program, the Maker Hub provides financial support for maintenance and equipment in exchange for access to the space. We also have a partnership with STEAM Junction, the local community makerspace in downtown Burlington, NC (https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/location/steam-junction.html). This partnership allows up to five Elon students to concurrently use the space.
Three years ago when the idea of a makerspace was still in the discovery phase on campus, we spent a lot of time reaching out to other schools that were experimenting with or establishing their own spaces. The folks at these universities and organizations were extremely welcoming, and provided invaluable advice and insight that helped us establish our space more quickly. These interactions led us to a valuable observation: These other schools were extremely helpful, and had really useful knowledge to share, and the one thing they all had in common was they had interacted with Elon. We took advantage of this connection point to establish up recurring Google Hangouts with maker representatives from other North Carolina schools, including but not limited to UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State University, Duke University, Davidson College, and Appalachian State University. These Hangouts provide an opportunity for us to share successes, discuss challenges, and provide group insight toward making on campus.
The Maker Hub also has a productive and ongoing relationship with STEAM Junction, the local community makerspace in downtown Burlington, NC (https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/location/steam-junction.html). STEAM Junction has been a valuable area of support for questions and ideas. They also host the Burlington Mini-Maker Faire each spring, which is the largest annual Maker Faire in North Carolina. The Maker Hub has presented at the Burlington Mini-Maker Faire, and served as a co-sponsor of the event.
We’ve been consistently surprised and delighted by the ingenuity and motivations of our student guests. One student emailed us to express how overjoyed and empowered he felt after learning how to fix his Xbox controller with a soldering iron. A pair of students spent part of their summer developing a heated compression sleeve for diabetics to wear over their legs. Our instructors have also taken advantage of the capabilities of the space, incorporating making directly into their pedagogical and instructional design. You can read more about their experiences here: https://www.elon.edu/e/org/makers/making-in-class.html