Nil Santana, Director of Maker Lab

make | learn | share

Make – We all like to make something. From Legos to cooking, we’re all hard-wired to solve problems. Here in the Maker Lab we believe in making as a pedagogical tool. Building something informs us about the process in a different way, so failing fast and often emphasizes the lessons we learn from action toward solving a goal. Go ahead, get out there and make something!

Learn – Human interaction and shared creativity are at the heart of making. We seek to create an environment that fosters a lively interchange of ideas to solve problems. There’s a lot to be learned when we make an object—how to use certain tools, techniques, and processes. Failing fast and often emphasizes the lessons we learn from action toward solving a goal. But as practitioners of the so-called ‘maker-centered learning’ we also subscribe to the idea that makers are learning about collaboration, about community, and themselves.

Share – Inventive solutions often emerge from crossing boundaries of discipline, groups of people, and old and new tools and materials. The Maker Lab provides traditional and specialized tools and materials to enable this mixing of people and ideas. Human interaction and shared creativity are at the heart of making. We seek to create an environment that fosters a lively interchange of ideas to solve problems. Show your projects, contraptions, whatever you’re making! Inspire others to make as well.

Research and Planning

In the Spring of 2013, Dr. John Weaver, Dean of Library Services and Educational Technology, led a group of faculty, librarians and technologists that asked how to provide access to maker technologies at ACU.

The first step in this process was the production of a short documentary to introduce the campus to the values of making. The Learning Studio conducted interviews in March with key voices in the Maker Movement in Austin and in New York, including representatives from Make Magazine, Etsy, and maker companies like MakerBot and Twine.

The team visited makerspaces in museums, schools and community workshops and heard about their role as learning communities. As Raphael Abrams from NYC Resistor said, “the main tool of this place isn’t really whether we have a 3D printer or a laser cutter or the right set of hand tools or something, but it’s having people around in the room with you and being able to bounce ideas off each other and to share knowledge.”

WeAreMakers-buttonrThe film was directed by Nathan Driskell and Mathew Bardwell in the Learning Studio with interviews conducted by Kyle Dickson and James Langford.

Since its premiere in June, We Are Makers has been viewed more than 20,000 times in more than 120 countries, with almost 2/3 of those views located outside the US. The film was also screened throughout the summer and fall with faculty, staff and students to initiate conversations around the potential of maker technologies on campus.

Maker Lab Opening

From the momentum gained in the film, the design progress has led to the Maker Lab grand opening during Homecoming this year. James Langford and Lyndell Lee in the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning have worked closely with Dr. Ken Olree and Dr. Jeff Arrington in the Department of Engineering and Physics and Dr. Nil Santana and Brandon Young in the Department of Art & Design on the project.

The pressing need this summer was to outfit a 6,000 square foot space previously occupied by Special Collections for use by classes in engineering, physics and art this fall. This particular combination provides an early experiment in how inter-disciplinary or cross-disciplinary collaborations can be encouraged while still delivering high-quality programs within each major.

Philosophy of the Maker Lab

From its beginning, the makerspace project has truly been a collaboration, between teams across campus and many of the voices in the maker community who helped jump-start the project.

It was Eric Siegel, the director and chief content officer at NYSCI that crystalized this idea: “The American ideal of the lone inventor has always been a myth. If you talk about people like Edison, Einstein or Jobs, they worked in a social environment. . . and they learned from their peers. That’s how science progresses.”

The significant opportunity the new Maker Lab brings to students at ACU is the opportunity to develop skills in invention, creativity and collaboration that allow them to fully participate in shaping the world around them.