We define maker culture as one where students, staff, and faculty learn by making and sharing what they learn with the institution, our community and the world.
We have great students, who come up with several make-a-thons, hack-a-thons and create student organizations centered on making. The university supports many of these student-led activities with facility support, faculty mentors, and sponsorships. In addition, our faculty is encouraged to incorporate ‘making’ both physically and digitally in their courses, with a focus on community impact. Also, the university encourages interdisciplinary courses, to bring together makers from different majors, and has also developed an ecosystem to support some of these projects to commercial success. The university also support shared ‘making’ spaces such as the Illinois MakerLab (http://makerlab.illinois.edu ), the first 3D printing lab in a business school and University/community shared ownership of a FabLab. Finally, several other units on campus have making spaces, such as Art & Design, Architecture, and the Engineering schools.
One area of focus is on ensuring that we have a variety of formal (for credit) and informal (certifications, badges) making opportunities available, where we are able to leverage our strengths in business, design, engineering and education schools. There are structured offerings in engineering and Art & Design with cross listed courses in design, and courses such as the “Making Things” and “Digital Making” courses at the MakerLab in the College of Business.
Illinois MakerLab: Making Things Course. This course is project based and employs three person team, in which students from Business, Engineering and Art & Design come together to plan, desig , make and market a new product that solves a real problem.
Illinois MakerLab: Digital Making Course. In this course, students from across campus develop skills in 3D modeling, scanning, printing, laser cutters, arduinos, digital embroidery, and smart fabrics.
We also hold dozens of workshops on digital fabrication at the MakerLab, and the FabLab, which are open to students, faculty/staff and community members.
The engineering school has initiated a program where incoming freshman will be given hands-on experience with tools and techniques used across various engineering programs.
We have several student organizations that are involved in making, both digitally and physically. MakersUIUC (http://www.makersuiuc.com/) focused on product design and development. DesignForAmerica (http://www.dfaillinois.com/ ) the local chapter of the national group, focused on design thinking and community impact. We have a few annual events such as Engineering open house, Hackillinois, 54.io and CU-Make. Students also get involved in community maker faire’s, UCMakerfaire and Heartlandmakerfest, which often have sponsors from the university as well
Illinois MakerLab: Fourteen desktop 3D printers, three 3D scanners, 3D modeling software, arduino’s, raspberry pi’s.
Beckman Visualization Lab: High resolution scanners and other imaging infrastructure.
CU FabLab: Laser cutters, desktop CNC, Vinyl cutters, 3D printers, digital embroidery machines, arduinos.
Our campus is also in the planning stages for a new 35,000 SFT Design Center that will serve as a resource for makers across campus. Construction of this center will begin in 2016. When completed, this center will house a variety of making equipment and tools, including 3D printers, injection-molding machines, laser cutters, etc.
The Illinois MakerLab and the FabLab are both open to the community. These two labs bring together members from the maker community for workshops and meetups. We invite makers into the classroom as well (eg: Mitch Altman visited the Making things class and was also engaged with the living and learning community program for Illinois undergraduate students). Our students are also encouraged to engage with maker communities online and present their projects at local and national <akerfaire events. As an example, the 2015 CU-Make event brought together three different campus units, a community organizations and a couple of area businesses to create a make-a-thon event where over a hundred participants (kids, parents, university students and faculty) came together to create solutions for seniors living in a nearby assisted-living community.
1. The MakerLab is a partner in the Illinois Marketplace and Maker Literacy project, which seeks to build marketplace and maker literacy skills in low income and low literacy populations across Illinois. This project partners with the Illinois Small Business Development Corporation at Bethel New Life (a non-profit), and the University of Illinois Extension. We have also installed a printer in a village in Chennai, India as part of our efforts to expand our reach beyond the state of Illinois.
2. The CU Fab Lab is operated as a partnership between the community and the university.
The most important impact would be on student engagement and learning during the making process. When these activities are placed in the broader context of community service, we find students putting in significant amount of effort to create value in our academic and civic community. There have been significant inroads made in convincing students that they can make what they consume, instead of buying. We have seen this help in reducing costs in several research units. For example, the MakerLab helps researchers create custom design test equipment, at low cost, rather than buying this equipment in the market. We have also seen some successful startups as well, although that is not the focus of our efforts. We believe that making skills along with access to low cost and easy to use desktop fabrication technologies, serve to empower individuals to create, and fulfill their intrinsic desire to make the things that they use.
One startup that was facilitated by the MakerLab was PikMoments/GetPixet. Two computer science students came to the MakerLab needing a prototype shell for their raspberry pi-based smart camera. Our student designers helped them create this prototype, which they then used to make an investor pitch. They are now part of an accelerator in Silicon Valley. Another example is the Making Things class, which has seven marketable ideas each semester. The students in this class actually sell their products, some of which are capable of being small scale businesses. For example, in Spring 2014, the students in this class developed an amplifier for smart phones (Boost), without any electronics, and in Spring 2015, they developed a device (Foldr) that helps people fold clothes faster and more consistently than doing it by hand.