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

The maker culture at Morehouse is one that seeks to engage our students, faculty, and community stakeholders in STEM-related, do-it-yourself activities that foster creativity, ingenuity, and leadership development. Enveloped in a free-form, fun environment, the College encourages stakeholders to explore their ideas through the use of such techniques as rapid prototyping, peer-to-peer learning, and Lean Start Up. Ultimately, our goal is to provide a physical and intellectual infrastructure that allows our students and stakeholders to express their creativity, solve problems, and explore opportunities through making.

How does your institution foster maker culture?

The College has focused its efforts on exposing makers to the tools, techniques, and practices of making. Both year-long and summer programs convene students at the high school, middle school and undergraduate levels to teach the basic techniques of making and to provide tools and equipment for students to pursue their interests in such activities as robotics, computing, or 3-D printing. Deploying faculty and others as facilitators, the students learn how STEM can be used in the real world to build things, create products, or solve problems that they are most interested in. Programs such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Club, the Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Camp and the Pre-Freshman Bridge Summer Science Program target specific student groups and provide forums for students to practice making. 

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

The College’s approach is to provide an academic setting that incorporates maker principles, and equipping faculty is a particular point of emphasis. Morehouse’s Faculty Development Center is initiating a program to train faculty in maker education and includes orienting faculty in the use of makerspace equipment such as 3-D printers. Innovation and Lean Start Up are now topic areas within courses in the entrepreneurship program. Additionally, the Math and Science Division leads an interdisciplinary program in sustainable energy that incorporates maker ideas into STEM and STEAM coursework. 

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

Key initiatives and programs at the college that support the development of maker skills:

1. The Morehouse Pan African Global Experience (MPAGE) is an international community outreach and research summer experience in which students travel to countries in West Africa (e.g. Ghana and Burkina Faso) to participate in the Solar Pioneers Project. The project teaches both STEM and non-STEM students to engineer sustainable solar power and install functional solar panels for off-the-grid communities in West Africa. Prior to participating in MPAGE, students connect with maker cultures to learn how to work with solar panels. A number of students who have completed the MPAGE program have developed plans that incorporate their maker skills into implementing creative solar panel projects on Morehouse’s campus.

2. The Pre-Freshman Bridge Summer Science Program at Morehouse supports the development of science-based maker skills. Students in this program participate in a highly innovative and engaging maker/research experience called the “High Altitude Research Platform” (HARP). Through HARP, students design, develop, and create an original research payload craft, then use weather balloons to launch their craft into “near space” conditions and recover them for observation and evaluation. This technologically-sophisticated project is accomplished using scientific kits, including the StratoStar High Altitude Balloon Kit which provides GPS tracking and computerized prediction software for balloon launches and LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits which create functional onboard instruments that facilitate the manipulation of original research samples. By coupling these kits with an innovative maker/research curriculum, HARP allows students to conduct original research projects in the areas of climate studies, atmospheric particulate matter, materials science, battery technology, and alternative energy.

3. The Youth Entrepreneurship Summer (YES) Camp is a signature program of the Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center. The camp seeks to provide underserved metro-Atlanta high school students with opportunities to engage with entrepreneurial education and to turn ideas into action. Over a two-week non-residential period, students are exposed to the importance of innovation and creativity in all disciplines of education and all walks of life through classroom instruction, workshops and guest speaker sessions, and interactive exercises. Students gain real-world entrepreneurship experiences through field trips to innovative, cutting edge businesses. To culminate the two-week camp, students work in teams to develop and competitively pitch ideas for innovative products or services.

4. The Youth Entrepreneurship Club (YEC), a project of the Morehouse College Community Revitalization Initiative (MCCRI), uses a specialized STEM-focused entrepreneurship curriculum to engage students at two area middle schools in experiential and project-based learning through a year-long afterschool program. YEC aims to create a culture of entrepreneurship and keep area students interested in staying in school and attending college while exposing them to the STEM areas. Students use design principles and creative processes to develop and model innovative and inventive products and services that solve real-world problems. At the end of each school year, students present their projects in an Innovation and Invention Competition. In addition to the year-long YEC program, MCCRI also operates a YEC LEGO-STEM Summer Camp in which students use the Engineering Design Process to complete LEGO building projects. MCCRI hopes to establish the YEC program as an exemplar of youth maker organizations in the Atlanta region.

5. A newly developed Robotics Club for undergraduate students has been formed at Morehouse which supports the development of maker skills. This club is in its first semester of existence and promises to increase on-campus making opportunities for Morehouse students.

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

Students play a vital role in the maker activities on our campus, including being the primary focus of the year-long, summer, and international programs listed above. They are also involved in presenting their inventions and ideas in a broad range of maker activities at internal and external conferences. There are currently two undergraduate student organizations on Morehouse’s campus that are involved in making: the newly organized Robotics Club and Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS). SOS is involved in a project to develop cell phone charging stations powered by solar panels within the college’s study halls. At Morehouse, we hope that the recent proliferation of programs and initiatives that support STEM, innovation and invention, and the development of maker skills will encourage our students to develop even more maker-focused organizations. 

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

A newly formed makerspace has been created at Morehouse College with funding from the National Science Foundation. This facility is a general purpose makerspace with special emphasis on sustainable energy, robotics, and the High Altitude Research Project. Equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, GPS telemetry and tracking devices, hand tools, electronic equipment, soldering supplies, drills, computers, robotics kits, fabrics, and craft supplies are available in the makerspace.

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

A group of Morehouse College students joined over 200 makers from around the country at the 2014 Maker Faire in Atlanta. Morehouse students exhibited their high altitude research craft project developed through the HARP program.

In 2011, the Morehouse College Community Revitalization Initiative started an Entrepreneurship Collaborative for the purpose of connecting Youth Entrepreneurship Initiatives in the metro-Atlanta area. The Collaborative brings together youth entrepreneurship programs in the region to brainstorm ideas, share information and resources, and partner on events and programs.

The Youth Entrepreneurship Summer (YES) Camp is open to all metro-Atlanta high school rising sophomores and juniors. Since the inception of YES Camp 7 years ago, Morehouse has hosted participants from over 35 schools in the metro area, with a majority of participants coming from Benjamin E. Mays, Tri-Cities, and Westlake High Schools. The program’s reach extends southward to Eagles Landing High School in Henry County and northward to Marietta High School in Cobb County.

This year, Morehouse will partner with the Georgia Institute of Technology to host the 2014 Platform Summit. The summit brings together a community of people interested in the intersections of technology, science, art, and entrepreneurship. The conference focuses on “diversity in the innovation economy,” and seeks to inspire people from across all social, cultural, ethnic, and gender groups to creatively engage in social entrepreneurship.

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

The Morehouse College Community Revitalization Initiative (MCCRI) was established in 1997 as the community development arm of Atlanta’s Morehouse College. Since then, MCCRI has supported nine neighborhood associations adjacent to Morehouse’s campus in myriad economic development activities, which have included community education workshops and initiatives, technology training programs, and mentoring programs for youth, including the Youth Entrepreneurship Club and LEGO-STEM Summer Camp. MCCRI’s goal is to affect sustained economic development and social improvement in the area through education and community involvement.

CONima Architects is a consulting firm that works with makerspace design and implementation. Morehouse is contracting this firm for the development of our makerspace facility. 

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

Maker activities at Morehouse College and in the surrounding community are well established. The maker culture is increasingly taking root, and this can be seen in the growing interest from both students and faculty in expanding our offerings of courses, programs, and facilities for maker-related activity. 

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Morehouse recently initiated the development of a makerspace facility located within the Division of Science and Mathematics. Upon announcing this new initiative, numerous unexpected faculty from programs from across campus including philosophy, art, and kinesiology/physical education have expressed interest in becoming involved with the facility and its programming. The input and participation from such a diverse group provides Morehouse with a unique opportunity to augment our thriving STEM programs with STEAM content that integrates the arts and humanities into our STEM-focused maker culture.

An innovation that developed from Morehouse’s maker culture is the High Altitude Research Platform (HARP), in which freshmen STEM majors make and send a research payload into near space. Freshmen participants in the program have presented their projects at the Emerging Research National Conference alongside a cohort of primarily upper-level undergraduates. HARP has also been featured in an hour-long, professionally produced documentary that aired on CAU-TV, a local PBS cable channel in Atlanta, Georgia. This documentary won an Honorable Mention and a Gold Award ( from Marcom, an international creative competition that recognizes outstanding achievement by communication professionals.

To date, the Morehouse College Community Revitalization Initiative has been awarded two Department of Commerce grants for a feasibility study and an incubator study to strategically guide the process of building a culture of entrepreneurship. The studies resulted in the designation of the Atlanta University Center (AUC) Corridor as an approved regional Economic Development Strategy (EDS) area. The AUC Corridor’s Innovation District encompasses 40 census tracts that, according to the study, could support the following industries: 1) Aviation and Defense, 2) Software, 3) Food Processing, 4) Life Sciences, 5) Advanced Manufacturing, 6) Business and Financial Services, and 7) Creative Industries. These studies provided necessary data to jumpstart the AUC Corridor’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Learn more about Making at Morehouse College