Maker culture emphasizes problem solving, creativity, and perseverance. Through access to expertise and tools not easily affordable or readily available, novices and experts come together to learn from one another and push the boundaries of informal learning.
The University of Wyoming approaches maker culture with different spaces, each focused on different aspects to serve both the campus population and surrounding community. WyoMakers, the first space emphasizes maker culture in PK12 teacher preparation and how we can encourage preservice teachers to implement problem- and project-based approaches in formal learning settings. The other two spaces, currently under development include a libraries makerspace to introduce the broader campus community to making opportunities through a Makerbot Startup Lab and a large facility tentatively called the Student Innovation Center (SIC). The SIC is a collaborative project involving the College of Engineering, College of Education, and UW Libraries with funding and support provided by the College of Engineering. This space will model design and activities found in other spaces such as Stanford and Texas A&M University.
College of Education and Honors Program classes are already making use of WyoMakers to help students engage in making opportunities related to course content. For example, an honors course over children’s film, taught by Education faculty, calls upon experts from across the campus community (both faculty and staff) to help students learn about film production and the tools available in WyoMakers allows the students to create a short film or film trailer for themselves. With respect to teacher preparation, WyoMakers hosts students currently enrolled in methods courses to demonstrate equipment and brainstorm ways in which these student teachers can implement making activities during their residency semester.
As the other two spaces are developed, faculty and administrators are actively discussing focused methods for infusing curricula with making activities, sponsoring maker faires and festivals, and competitions on campus and across the state for makers. Included among these plans are hosting a mini maker faire on campus, hacker fests, week of code activities (both in higher education and K12), and more for 2016. A current robotics club hosted on campus and organized by Computer Science faculty and graduate students with support from College of Education faculty and undergraduate students will move to the new SIC facility once open to allow for an expansion of current club meetings and curriculum.
Participation in regional maker faires, collaboration with ongoing courses/programs, and planned events foster a variety of maker skills. A first year seminar (FYS) to be offered every fall semester (beginning Fall 2016) titled “Making, Hacking, & Tinkering: Creating in the Modern World” uses project-based curriculum to partner collaborative groups of students with experts around the world to identify and address real world problems. This course, offered by the College of Education, will be based in the WyoMakers makerspace, but make use of the other facilities on campus as they open. Partnerships and collaboration with the UW Laboratory School’s Library Resource Center to offer coding, programming, robotics, and other tech activities occur every semester. Active collaboration includes working with the Laramie Robotics Club to staff weekly programming sessions where local 4-16 learners engage with simulations and robots like the Scribbler and KMR M6 spider robot. The robotics club is held weekly on Wednesday afternoons during the regular fall and spring semesters.
Outside of formal curriculum, most making occurs through community events hosted on- and off-campus, such as sewing and fabric manipulation sessions held at the county library or the weekly robotics club held on the UW campus. Planned events include coordinated Hour of Code sessions in campus computer labs, hakerthons hosted during holiday/vacation breaks, mini maker faire (planning to submit for late fall 2016 or early spring 2017), community recycling and repurposing event to coincide with Earth Day 2016, and more. The College of Education student organizations, Kappa Delta Pi and Student Wyoming Education Association, will assist with organization and planning of these events.
The WyoMakers makerspace currently includes two workstations loaded with Adobe Creative Cloud, SketchUp, Blender, Unity, and video production software. A MakerBot Replicator and Digitizer are accessibly by both computers and materials for a safe acetone bath to finish 3D printed objects is also available. Mobile tripods and a fixed green screen setup are available for mobileography production. A 3Doodler EDU bundle is packaged in a carrying case to allow for easy check out by students/faculty or demonstrations.
The UW Libraries makerspace will be established using the Makerbot Startup Lab, and the SIC plans include a wide variety of equipment including workbenches, storage units, solder stations, sewing machines, craft supplies, presses, saws, routers, milling machines, lathes, welders, sanders, power tools, hand tools, plotters, 3D printers, workstations, meeting rooms, production software, and more.
Community partnerships include co-sponsoring, hosting, and/or promoting events. The WyoMakers makerspace does permit community members to access and use the available tools and resources or schedule the space to host events. An example of assisting and promoting a local event includes a community “costume making party” at the county library in advance of the Halloween season. Student volunteers who work in and/or use the makerspace will be available to help manage the younger makers and provide sewing machine guidance.
A formal partnership exists with the Jackson Hole High School Fabrication Lab, located in Jackson, Wyoming. Teachers and students in the FabLab often consult with the WyoMakers makerspace to provide input on types of equipment to provide and how to structure lessons with preservice teachers that encourage and foster making. The Albany County School District #1 Technology Coordinator is also a partner of WyoMakers, and joint activities are in early planning phases. These activities are tentative while the new high school is under construction and a campus makerspace/fabrication lab is under design. WyoMakers also participated in the NoCo Mini Maker Faire (Loveland, Colorado) in October 2015 with plans to host a maker booth every year.
Maker culture is still fairly new to the University of Wyoming campus. Much of the simultaneous work with establishing makerspaces includes educating the campus community and leaders on what it means to be a maker and how we can create a maker-friendly campus. In addition to the makerspace plans already mentioned, current drafts of dormitory renovations include providing maker facilities on the ground floor of each building.
The most significant success stories to date involves two computer science graduate students who used WyoMakers for multiple projects. Angela Benavides wrote the programming for an app that remote controlled a motion-activated camera. The camera was part of a mount, designed by Daniel Wilches, that included a Raspberry Pi, motion sensor, power cables, indicator lights, controller hub, and rotating platform for the camera. Everything was encased in a box printed on our 3D printer. A demo of the product is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQ0P6PXDkJg. After this success, the students created a lab called 3DIA and worked on a motion capture system using objects printed in WyoMakers. This project summary is available at https://www.facebook.com/wyomakers/posts/1599375653667688.