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

Tennessee Tech University (TTU) is the leading undergraduate engineering institution in the State of Tennessee and has a long history of producing graduates that are hands-on problem solvers. Tennessee Tech encourages students to practice their engineering skills through real-world problem solving and emphasizes the process; to design it, make it, test it and repeat to make it better.

The strategic plan of the College of Engineering at TTU calls for creating a 21st Century Renaissance Engineer who is an adaptive professional, who is inquisitive and creative and makes significant contributions for the betterment of humanity. 

How does your institution foster maker culture?

The college has over 15 labs that directly support student design/build projects. Engineering students carry out hands-on design projects nearly every year at Tech. The University is now investing in creating a “Maker Space”, the Innovation Discovery Learning Institute (IDLI), a campus wide central location (in the University library) to support student design and build projects. Co-location of the Maker Space with the Business Media Center and a Virtual Reality lab will make this a unique approach. In addition, there is a partnership with the Launch Tennessee and its local center, the BizFoundry, who promotes maker culture.

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

Engineering courses historically have had a strong design and build component, with students seeing three to five such experiences during their education. These courses are now focusing on introducing the newest manufacturing and design tools within the traditional engineering courses. The University is also launching an innovation and entrepreneurship certificate program which has requirements for prototype development and demonstration. Individual courses such as Lean LaunchPad and business innovation courses have been developed to promote customer discovery as a part of the process and encourage making what is needed by the customer.

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

Programs: Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate,

EagleWork (University-wide competition on innovative problem solving and entrepreneurship)

Initiatives: TTU is a Member of the Partners for Innovation Program (PIP) with regular activities to enhance the innovation and making infrastructure at TTU

Courses: TTU engineering has capstone design through hands-on product development for every student, junior level and freshman level hands-on design classes.

Student projects: TTU engineering has a long tradition of student projects ranging from SAE Baja, SAE Formula, ASCE Steel Bridge, ASCE Concrete Canoe to student projects in robotics, automation, cyber security, sustainable engineering projects, NASA Moonbuggy, “Makers By Design” engineering roadshow, Chem-E-Car / Bio-Car.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship competitions – Pilot competitions has taken place in 2014 and a LeanLaunch Pad Course ended with a competition as well.

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

The maker clubs are generally focused around a theme. These include: 1) SAE Baja, 2) SAE Formula, 3) TTU Autonomous Robotics Club. 4) ASCE Steel Bridge, 5) ASCE Concrete Canoe, 6) Cyber Eagles – Cyber Security Club

The Epicenter University Innovation Fellow has started a student organization, Social Entrepreneurship Society, to focus some of the student activities.

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

TTU Campus, Biz Foundry, IDLI (Maker Space), Engineering technical labs and machine shops. Millard Oakley STEM Center (houses 3-D printers).

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

The Millard Oakley STEM center is the primary maker/educational outreach program in the community and is part of the TTU campus. The STEM center hosts 2-4 maker-type activities approximately every month. FAB Friday is just such an example in which the community (focused at children) can make or build with all types of medium.  

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

TTU partners with the Biz Foundry, one of the nine Launch TN sites to promote technical startups.   

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

Majority of engineering students participate in some type of making activity on campus, approximately half in extra-curricular activities.  

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

  • SES – Student Entrepreneurship Society
  • Four startups during the summer, 2014 as part of the TTU@LLP course
  • EagleWorks Competition (2015)