A makerspace is a place to creatively experiment and engage in the design and rendering, or “making” of prototypes while also giving back to the community around it by sharing ideas, knowledge, and experience.
With a variety of makerspace environments (university makerspace = Bobcat Made, mobile community makerspace = The MAKE Lab, and planned innovative prototyping makerspace at STAR Park), Texas State acknowledges that access to the right tools can bring ideas to reality.
Engineering and Technology also have facilities enabling rapid prototyping of mechanical systems via multiple technologies as well as creation of micro- and macro- scale devices and composite structures.
The College of Education provides a variety of courses related to ways of integrating hands-on inquiry based learning into K-12 settings. These courses include promoting “maker” mindsets that challenge the traditional notion of failure as an opportunity to enrich learning, explore constraints that enable creative processes, and engage in open-ended projects that support content learning.
The Ingram School of Engineering provides rich, ABET-accredited curricula in multiple engineering disciplines. Some courses allow students from a variety of majors to explore engineering topics, which engages them in the design process and allows them to make physical prototypes. Additionally, “maker culture” is supported by design-intensive activities and projects which require students to create complex systems beginning from functional requirements at multiple scales, and via multiple methodologies. Engineering faculty engage with local school districts via summer outreach programs and fully-formed curricula focused on “making” and which result in the development of “soup to nuts” physical prototypes of systems related to sustainable and renewable energy.
The LBJ STEM Institute currently has a makerspace, “Bobcat Made,” which is open to university students and also provides professional development workshops for local K-12 teachers (http://www.education.txstate.edu/c-p/LBJ-STEM.html). Additionally, the MAKE Lab is a mobile makerspace facilitated by the Educational Technology program that brings portable design technologies into the local community to provide workshops for local children and provides free summer camps for local students (http://themakelab.wp.txstate.edu/; http://iamcamp.wp.txstate.edu/).
In addition to the integration of prototyping activities in each engineering discipline in the undergraduate curricula, The Ingram School of Engineering hosts annual summer camps and activities for local school districts which focus on “maker culture” and the development of fully functional prototypes. The centerpoints of these outreach efforts are the “Rapid Prototyping Lab” which hosts multiple 3D printers, scanners, CNC machines, a multi-axis waterjet, and a full complement of conventional tools, and the “SMART Lab” which hosts an operational solar and wind farm via an islanded experimental facility. These facilities function together to provide students of all classifications access to modern toolsets and problem concepts related to “making” solutions in sustainable and renewable energy areas.
The STAR Park facility has plans for building a makerspace to provide complex prototyping support for startup firms and small to medium sized companies in the region lacking dedicated engineering and prototyping equipment.
In addition to their own making, students volunteer to facilitate mobile makerspace experiences through The MAKE Lab outreach efforts.
Engineering faculty engage with local school districts via summer outreach programs and fully-formed curricula focused on “making” and which result in the development of “soup to nuts” physical prototypes of systems related to sustainable and renewable energy.
Engineering curricula in all disciplines require Senior Design courses which include multidisciplinary “capstone” projects. Each project is executed by a team of students, using a variety of technologies. All projects are required to produce a functional prototype system.
Bobcat Made and The MAKE Lab are equipped with laptops, 3D printers, 2D fabrication machines, Laser CNC machines, sewing machines, hand tools, and various consumable supplies.
The Rapid Prototyping Lab contains an industrial-grade, multi-axis WardJet waterjet system, multiple 3D printers capable of rendering in paper, plastic and wax materials, 3D laser scanners, several CNC milling machines, a PlasmaCAM CNC cutter, a Zcorp rapid prototyping machine, as well as general machining equipments and tools.
Additional Engineering and Technology labs provide students access to a fully-equipped “shop floor” for manual and partially computer-aided milling, grinding, cutting, and rendering capabilities. A fully-functional foundry is also available for casting using bronze, aluminum, steel, and other metals.
Available software includes Mastercam (CAD/CAM), Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD, E-Factory (CAD and Solid Modeling), Ansys and ProE (CAD/CAE), FDFF, Zedit, Zprint, IGEMS, and Plasmacam (Rapid prototyping and Water cutting)
Students facilitate community workshops and also provide demonstrations and presentations at local Maker Faire events (Austin Mini-Maker Faire, New Braunfels Mini-Maker Faire, STREAM Fest, etc.). Engineering Senior Design projects are sponsored by companies, partnerships, and agencies including Toyota Motor Company, Emerson Process Management, Freescale Semiconductor, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Planning is underway to develop a maker space research service center at STAR Park to encourage industry and entrepreneurs to collaborate with faculty and students at Texas State to develop complex prototypes as part of the innovation and commercialization process.
The MAKE Lab partners with the Artspace at Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos, the San Marcos Public Library, and San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District.
Graduate students who participate in workshops and courses related to The MAKE Lab report an eagerness to differentiate their classroom teaching so that they can integrate makerspace activities into their existing standards-based curricula. According to pre-/post-test scores, 2014 iAM: Integrating Art and Mathematics summer camp participants improved their visual spatial skills from 0.71 ± 0.98, which has significant implications for mathematics education.
Other makerspace experiences have resulted in personal problem-solving through the development of prototyping physical solutions.
Though not related to monetary gain, participation in Bobcat Made and The MAKE Lab have inspired members of the local community to participate and share their desire to make.
Engineering Senior Design activities have resulted in modifications and additions to products and services from various sponsors and partners. Notable activities include technologies incorporated into commercial HAM radio systems, painting and manufacturing jigs for automotive assembly lines, fire retardant fabrics and composite structures for aerospace applications, modifications to wheelchairs to enable computer gaming, and applications of the “Internet of Things” related to solar/wind power management.