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

‘Maker culture’:: Empowering people to physically realize their ideas through sharing of human and physical resources.

How does your institution foster maker culture?

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. 

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

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.

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

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).

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

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. 

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

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.

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

See below

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

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.

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

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. 

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

We’ve had many successes. Here’s two recent ones:

  • Nonspec, a startup company established by UMass Lowell engineering-students-turned-entrepreneurs to design and mass-produce affordable prosthetic limbs for children in developing countries, won the top prize of $25,000 during the eighth annual American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Innovation Showcase, held April 28th 2014 in Washington, D.C.
  • UMass Lowell’s “Rover Hawks” beat seven other teams from nine universities from across the country to take home the top prize at this year’s RASC-AL Exploration Robo-Ops Competition sponsored by NASA in December, 2013. The contest challenged the teams to demonstrate the capabilities of their student-built rovers in a Mars-like environment at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Rover Hawk was driven and controlled remotely from UMass Lowell’s New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center, the only robotics-testing facility in the region.