‘Maker culture’:: Empowering people to physically realize their ideas through sharing of human and physical resources.
Institutionalization through top-down promotion of experiential learning. UMass Lowell’s tagline is “Learning with Purpose” and our mission is “Work Ready. Life Ready. World Ready.” This “can-do” attitude is supported in the curriculum through blending of high quality education with practical hands-on training.
Given that blending theory and practice is embedded in our culture, the curriculum embraces and relies on making. For the past ten years, we have NSF-funded grants for Service-Learning Integrated throughout a College of Engineering (SLICE), and our working to formalize making throughout the curriculum via an initiative Transforming Engineering Education through Making (TEEM). We’d like work other schools to join us in this effort.
We are targeting introduction to engineering & capstone engineering projects. Other significant initiatives associated with development of maker skills include DifferenceMakers (entrepreneurship focus) and Service-Learning (community outreach focus).
Students are the makers, in their courses and also in their clubs. Student clubs are affiliated with student chapters of professional societies (ASCE, ASME, IEEE, AiCHE) that sponsor competitions (concrete canoe, SAE car, robotics, steel bridge) that rely on making.
We currently have prototyping facilities spread across Departments and in February of 2015 will launch a new 6,000 sq. ft. makerspace (Cornerstone to Capstone lab) that provides central resources and supports interdisciplinary projects/learning. We are currently checking out usage models/issues with a proto-prototyping lab that includes 3D printing and laser cutting. Nearby resources include CNC machining, thermoforming, circuit board printing, and other processes.
We have participated in conferences and workshops associated with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), and other Universities (such as EPICS at Purdue University). We have worked with local maker spaces in Boston and Lowell in designing our Maker Space. We also will have an open, shared-use resource sponsored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that complements our education-focused maker space.
Maker culture allows student problem-based and project-based learning to have an impact beyond theories from the classroom, addressing broad community needs while improving student motivation, self-efficacy and retention.
We’ve had many successes. Here’s two recent ones: