The maker culture is one that encourages the transition from idea to physical creation.
Mississippi State University is committed to exploring alternative ways to encourage students to extend their ideas into prototypes by providing access to many of the tools they will be working with in industry.
We offer several engineering courses that include prototype development and testing as a major part of the project assignments. We have also formed an interdisciplinary Working Group to address emerging technology in different disciplines. As part of the working group efforts, we plan to offer a course in the fall for beginning freshmen on “emerging technology and its impact.”
Student-led regional and national design competitions have been a major part of engineering education at Mississippi State University. Ranging from concrete canoe to unmanned aircraft systems and EcoCAR challenge, such competitions provide various opportunities for our students to develop their maker skills.
Student participation in making is mainly tied to numerous student competitions sponsored by professional engineering societies. Mississippi State University is currently exploring the creation of a student-run Maker Space. This program will foster the creation of student maker communities and help make the many tools on campus available to students interested in creating their own projects.
The primary facilities, technologies and tools range from the basic to the state-of-the-art. Students currently have access to the academic department resources in addition to the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. These facilities provide basic machine shops, CNC machining, welding, 3D printers, electrical prototyping equipment, composite fabrication, and wood working shops. Efforts are continuing to create a way for students to gain wider access and training on various tools so they can pursue their own projects and ideas in a safe and creative environment.
The Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University has committed itself to identify partners and work with the larger Maker Community for finding ways to better educate students in making while encouraging them to participate in the existing programs.
The Bagley College of Engineering sponsors student projects at the nearby high schools including the Mississippi School for Math and Science. The student participants are very bright and eager to interact with MSU, and the 3D printing lab has generated a lot of interest among these future college students.
The maker culture is emerging from the traditional project-based hands-on activities that have always been a part of engineering education at Mississippi State University. With greater emphasis and support toward entrepreneurship, the maker culture is rapidly evolving from exposing students to limited making experiences to facilitating the transformation of student ideas into products. This effort will continue to ensure that students will receive the best education that will make them successful in their chosen careers.
The Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Mississippi State University offers programs to encourage students from various majors to create company or product startups. The Center offers the Jack Hatcher Entrepreneurship Certificate program, which over the past 12 years has provided over 100 certificates to engineering students who have demonstrated an interest and commitment to growing their business skills along with their technical knowledge. At this year’s Investing in Innovation Day, nearly $50,000 was awarded to student start-up companies. Two competitors of the Final Round Business Competition were student start-up teams from engineering. At the last Engineering-Week, over 30 student led companies and nearly 60 students participated in the Business Plan Competition. Last year alone, more than 10 start-ups began to aggressively move forward with their business ventures involving innovative products and services. The business incubator at the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation has sales revenue totaling nearly 2 million dollars.
Our success stories also include the following: Mississippi State University has been invited four consecutive times to compete in the U.S. Energy Department’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions. The innovations and accomplishments demonstrated by our students in the NeXt Challenge, EcoCAR and EcoCAR 2 competitions have resulted in over 5 First Place Overall awards.
The Mississippi State University’s Space Cowboys rocket team triumphed at this year’s NASA-sponsored University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) competition. The Space Cowboys placed second out of 21 teams at the multiday competition in Utah. In addition to surpassing an altitude of 14,600 ft, the innovative two-stage rocket broke the sound barrier as the fastest rocket in the competition with the top speed of over 1,000 mph.
Some of the students involved in these competitions over the years have made use of their maker skills to establish or join start-up companies.