A manifestation of intellectual achievement pertaining to innovation and self-production of creative works enhanced through rapid-prototyping tools and principles, curriculum expansion, and community involvement in a way that brings together people of diverse backgrounds to solve critical challenges across diverse fields.
The College of Engineering (COE) at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa (UHM), within the University of Hawai‘i System (UH) fosters maker culture through (1) the creation of maker spaces led by individual scientists, researchers, and senior graduate and undergraduate students, (2) expansion of curriculum and addition of courses which focus on individual and multidisciplinary team-produced portfolios and projects of creative work disseminated through social media and multimedia sharing as well as reports and presentations, and (3) cutting-edge research in rapid-prototyping technology and applications supported through federal and state funding programs.
At the undergraduate level courses, mechanical (ME) and electrical engineering (EE) are incorporating in their curriculum tools, principles, and laboratory experiences for rapid computer aided design (CAD) and manufacturing (CAM), 3D modeling and printing, printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication, and other rapid fabrication approaches. Undergraduate courses impacted include ME 213 (Introduction to Engineering Design), ME 342 (Manufacturing Processes Lab), ME 446 (Advanced Materials Manufacturing), ME 481 (Design Project I: Senior Design), EE 211/213 (Basic Circuit Analysis I and II), EE 326 (Microelectronic Circuits II), and EE 296/396/496 (EE design course series culminating in 496, Senior Capstone Design).
Rapid prototyping and multidisciplinary project courses have been introduced at the graduate level as well including EE 626 (Rapid Prototyping of Electrophysical Devices, in approval process), ME 646 (Mechanics and Design of Composites), and ME 680 (High Growth Entrepreneurship). Students from these courses have gone on to win business plan and innovation competitions and UH and abroad.
UH has recently launched the XLR8UH Proof of Concept Center in which selected companies formed from faculty, staff, and students at UH can take their innovation into the commercial space supported with seed funding. This program serves to enhance early stage innovation and entrepreneurship programs conducted by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE).
The COE is in the process of applying for membership in the Epicenter program (National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation) funded by the National Science Foundation and VentureWell and led by Stanford University which will help direct making and innovation efforts across campus. Additionally, students have rallied to create an innovation leadership circle through the University Innovations Program centered in the EE department. Finally, the COE students also participate in the Campus-wide PACE Business Plan Competition and Innovation Challenge.
At the system level, efforts have been put in place to create a dedicated makerspace that would serve the entire student body.
Classes that support the development of maker skills (discussed in question 3) include ME 213, ME 342, ME 446, ME 481, ME 646, ME 680, EE 211/213, EE 326, EE 296/396/496, EE 626.
Aside from curriculum enhancements and the innovation leadership circle, we have been focused on numerous independent research projects at the graduate and undergraduate level oftentimes led by ambitious students. Examples of such projects include roadway safety devices which was actually funded in part by a local community benefactor, wireless sensor networks for monitoring renewable energy, novel anemometer technology, an all composites Unit Load Device (ULD) as Air Cargo Container, a tummy simulator for training doctors (SmarTummy), and a lung water content sensor (MiWa), which later all three ULD, SmarTummy, and MiWa teams participated in and won PACE Business Plan Competitions in 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. In addition, the MiWa team won an NSF-funded I-Corps grant and numerous other awards.
Facilities have been split across several PI labs and recently there has been an effort to consolidate tools into a central maker lab that can be shared across the College of Engineering, the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. Currently, fabrication tools available for students after appropriate safety training and qualification include:
As discussed before, there is also a larger system-wide effort to consolidate a large set of making tools and innovative spaces that would allow 3D printing, laser cutting, drilling, sewing, and other fabrication/manufacturing and construction tools to be available for dozens of students at a time.
The COE has been involved extensively with fostering the maker community in Hawaii including helping some maker and collaborative spaces have a home in the Manoa Innovation Center. Students have gone on to support the efforts at local spaces and light manufacturing centers such as Oahu Makerspace, Min Plastics, and Tri-L. Various community members and company representatives have come to UH for talking with faculty and staff and interviewing students.
Additionally, COE was involved with organizing and participating in the first Mini Maker Faire (4/3/2014) in Honolulu at a local School where flashing and sound synchronized LED displays and other COE projects were shown in the news and on YouTube.
Local inventors can donate money through the UH foundation to support research and development of prototypes as well as having groups of students work on those particular projects led by a PI from COE. For example, donations were made in the development of road safety devices which have since caught interest from the Hawaii Department of Transportation. As another example, a California company has chosen to connect directly with undergraduate students in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in developing a prototype for a special-purpose robotic system. This connection with the community has two-fold benefits in both allowing students to become familiar with needs and challenges of real communities and industries growing their portfolios and allowing local companies and innovators to have a chance to connect with talents on campus that may lead to future startups and collaborations.
The maker culture has accelerated the growth of innovative multidisciplinary projects as discussed above. These projects have in turn fueled collaboration between engineering, natural sciences, arts, and business. The explosion of interest at the student level has even propagated into excitement from faculty in realizing new types of science and explorations that they can perform. For example, the realization of lower cost special purpose sensor modules has fueled interest in the distributed studying of corals, weather, and sustainability where UH leads in these scientific realms. This push has allowed for the “making” of prototypes just in time for applying for science and engineering grants. So the culture has truly gone from a grass-roots movement to PI projects.
As mentioned previously, numerous student and faculty projects have gone on to place in innovation and business plan challenges as well as a few have gone on to become startups (MiWa Technologies, SmarTummy, ULD (Leading Lite Composites), and Open Power Quality). Some current exciting projects in the prototyping stage include novel wind anemometers which can minimize cost for arrayed architectural wind sensing, road safety devices, calibration units for MRI (joint with the John A. Burns School of Medicine), robotics and quad-copter projects, wireless environmental sensing, and interactive lighting systems.