We define Maker culture as an approach to professional and personal life in which the individual feels empowered to create the objects of their imagination.
Radford University fosters its Maker culture through infrastructure and programming support. Colleges and departments support specialized, disciplinary makerspaces, Making in the curriculum, as well as faculty and student research and creative scholarship. Recently, a multidisciplinary Maker movement began coordinating faculty, resources, and activities across the silos of academic disciplines. This group is being supported by the institution with space, funding and infrastructure support resulting in collaborative courses, projects, a freshman learning community, and events.
Currently, there are several programs and many courses that engage students with through innovation, creativity, project-based learning, and Making skills. In some courses, such as Managing New Ventures taught in the Management department, the class is structured around making. Students in this course have designed and prototyped prosthetic hands, others designed and prototyped drones and developed business models for an associated for-profit start-up. Other courses incorporate a Making module in a more traditional course, such as in Human Anatomy and Physiology, where students print bones as part of a class project. Additionally, making is being incorporated into freshman writing courses tied to the new learning community, RU Makers.
Moving forward, several initiatives are beginning to tie students, faculty, and projects together. For example, our Design program offers an interdisciplinary studio course, “Think Through Make: An Interdisciplinary Approach”, where students from across majors collaborate to design and build a sustainable tiny house. Additional cross-listed making courses are in development including a collaboration between Biology and Anthropology called “Evolution: The Game”.
Key programs involved in the multidisciplinary Making movement are Design, Physics Management, Marketing, Biology, Education, Anthropology, and our Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Movement leaders in these areas are bringing faculty, staff, and students together for joint projects, workshops, faculty development and funding opportunities, events and a learning community.
Beyond the classroom and faculty-student collaborations, students at Radford University engage in Making through a variety of challenges, charrettes, competitions, workshops, and events sponsored by student clubs and others. Exemplars include the American Society of Interior Designers student club and Fashion Society’s yearly Making challenges; the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning’s campus-wide Film Challenge; and students serving as mentors to middle and high-schoolers in our Battlebots! competitions.
Students have access to a variety of tools across our specialized Makerspaces, including 3D printers, scanners, a laser cutter, CAD software, a CNC milling machine, electronics, woodworking, hand tools, and workspaces designed for app development and multimedia production.
Our first multidisciplinary Makerspace is under construction and will house 3D printers, design software, electronic work stations, and hand tools. This space opens January 2016.
Radford University engages with the local, regional, and national Maker communities through outreach to local K-12 as well as student participation in regional, national, and international competitions, challenges, and events.
Radford University faculty and students have developed informal partnerships with the education, non-profit, and business sectors. Notably, Radford University Making faculty and student mentors partnered with Radford City Public Schools to teach Making skills and host a Battlebot competition with future collaborations in development. Additionally, the College of Business and Economics partnered with BB&T Bank to host a campus-wide business innovation contest. We continue to seek opportunities to engage our students in solving problems and engaging with the larger community.
The current multidisciplinary Maker movement has catalyzed faculty across the institution, produced a freshman learning community that will launch in Fall 2016, and is generating new interdisciplinary courses and course modules to enrich the student experience through Making. Our campus movement is rapidly evolving with emerging curricular and co-curricular programming.
Our emerging multidisciplinary Maker movement has resulted in some early successes.
Physics faculty along with students from Physics, Geology, Math and Computer Science have previously built—and continue to refine—instrumentation for an ongoing project to examine the correlation between polar sea ice surface temperature and ice depth. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a method for quickly determining the thickness of the arctic sea ice over a large area. The groups have designed and built their own temperature sensors that allow for rapid data collection along survey lines on the ice. The horizontal data density of one point every 17cm has not been achieved previously. The unique design is based on affordable, readily-available microcontroller technology along with low-cost, calibrated sensors.
A second example comes from the Tiny House project, led by a faculty member in Design. Students from across the institution collaborated to design and build a sustainable tiny house, with a minimal environmental footprint but that would still be enjoyable to live in. As a result of this experience several students found new career paths and even jobs post-graduation.
The Maker movement has facilitated interaction among faculty from different disciplines and a team of five faculty and ten students from four colleges are initiating grant proposals, entering national design contests, and building a prototype which recycles food waste into insect and fish protein utilizing unique technology.