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

Empowering students, faculty, staff, entrepreneurs, and the local community to rapidly turn an idea into reality by coupling a creative atmosphere with cutting edge tools and design support infrastructure. 

How does your institution foster maker culture?

UT fosters maker culture by devoting key resources to the UT Maker Space, supporting student groups related to maker culture, hosting open house events, hosting angel pitch and business model competitions, inviting entrepreneurs to speak on campus, and hiring an in-residence entrepreneur to work closely with students. Additionally, we bolster the maker culture by promoting cross-collaboration across colleges, departments and programs, such as the LaunchPad Incubation program and its tenants, the College of Business and Innovation, the College of Engineering and the College of Communication and the Arts.

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

Innovative design skills and creativity are at the forefront when we integrate maker education into curricula. We are rapidly integrating hands-on design into many courses in the College of Engineering to create market ready engineers. Design and commercialization are introduced in first semester courses of the freshman year and reinforced through the curricula. UT is also one of just a handful of I-Corps sites in the nation, so we are working to further incorporate the maker culture into the fabric of entrepreneurship within the university. Additionally, the Maker Space is housed in the same facility as the incubation program, so the building itself fosters a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Additional maker spaces are under construction adjacent to engineering teaching labs and student activity areas.

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

Maker education has been integrated into our freshman through senior level courses, ranging from our freshman design projects to our senior design capstone projects in the College of Engineering. Students are encouraged by angel pitch and commercialization opportunities as early as the freshman year. Extracurricular organizations such as the UT Maker Society, FEED and YES promote and share maker skills. The LaunchPad Incubation program also promotes the development of maker skills by offering the use of the Maker Space to applicable clients and fostering an on-campus innovation ecosystem for students, faculty/staff and community-based technology-based startup companies.

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

In 2014, UT formed the UT Maker Society. This group promotes a maker culture and is comprised of cross functional teams of students from the Colleges of Engineering, Business, Sciences, Communication and the Arts. In addition, this group helps to oversee our Maker Space and train students in maker skills. Design courses across the Engineering curricula require prototyping and product development, which students accomplish by seeking out and participating in maker activities. The Freshman Engineering Entrepreneurship Development (FEED) Club and the Young Entrepreneurs Society (YES) members are supportive and aligned with maker activities.

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

The primary tools included 3D printers, a digitizer, a laser cutter, CAD software, a tabletop CNC milling machine, sewing machines, measurement and hand tools.

Facilities under construction will include a commercial size milling machine and lathe, plus additional joining, measurement and hand tools.

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

The UT Maker Society promotes the space via social media, open house events, and public demonstrations of the space. They have explored collaborations with other maker groups, both community-based and more parochial, such as a local all-girls high school and a group comprised of Dana Corporation engineers. As more people become aware of the Maker Space, we anticipate that the interest level and activity will greatly increase.

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

The UT Maker Space has partnered with the College of Engineering, the LaunchPad Incubation program at UT, NSF I-Corps, and the College of Business and Innovation. The UT Maker Society has explored collaborations with other maker groups, both community-based in nearby cities and more focused, such as a local all-girls high school STEM club. 

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

Student excitement and energy has significantly increased. Students at the freshman level are now sharing ideas with upper-class students from different majors. Interactions between engineering and art faculty have brought insights to both groups. The maker culture is a big step forward training students for the job market and building desirable skill sets. Hiring managers from our Engineering Corporate Partners Program are enthusiastic about the potential for increased creativity and problem solving in our students. 

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

From the maker space culture and integrated design, several student groups have led startup companies utilizing resources from the UT Maker Space. One in particular, Hephaestus, is utilizing the Maker Space to forward their drone startup. The Maker Space allows them to achieve flexibility, speed and low capital input to create rapid prototypes and update their technology, which may give them a competitive advantage.