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University Makerspaces 3: Collaborating with Faculty

Expand your Audience Reach: Collaborating with Faculty

Makerspaces are one of the most vital resources on a college campus. Not only do they provide students with an enriching experience through the exposure of various machines and technologies, but they also enhance their everyday life skills. As students develop the tactile ability necessary to work with machines such as laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutters and more, they are also indirectly learning how to think critically, problem solve, and work through a project from start to finish. Makerspaces provide enrichment opportunities that allow students to take their education to the next level through hands-on learning experiences. 

One way in which Makerspace directors can expose their facility to a greater audience is by collaborating with faculty members at their university. Exposing faculty to the resources available in the Makerspace may generate new ideas that can supplement the classroom lesson and add to the overall learning outcomes. Faculty may prompt students with a project that requires the use of at least 2 Makerspace resources, they may include a tour of the facility in one of their class sessions, or arrange a workshop with the Makerspace director to do a deep dive into a specific machine or tool. All of these examples and more, are not just limited to engineering departments, which is who we most frequently see utilizing a Makerspace. Consider opening your facility to all disciplines across the university for greater exposure. Afterall, Makerspaces are a hub of collaborative opportunities that should not be limited to one type of student. 

While there are ample ways in which faculty can utilize the Makerspace, professors may not be aware of the resources available or that your facility even exists. Prior to meeting with the faculty, generate a list of ways in which you can aid them and their students. Understand the various levels of engagement that you, as the director, are committing to and create a schedule to manage each course that comes through the facility. Some of the recommendations below are limited to one class session, while others may be projects consuming weeks at a time. 

Consider presenting at a university forum, departmental meetings, to department chairs or at internal conferences to help bring awareness to your Makerspace. Utilize your “off-season” to meet one-on-one with professors to flesh out a project idea. This type of exposure is invaluable and is guaranteed to bring numerous courses through your facility during the semester. 

When working with faculty members, consider aiding to their course in the following ways:

  • Supplementing Lectures
    • Work with a faculty member to enhance their lecture with a hands-on learning experience. This will enrich the initial lesson and expose the students to the Makerspace for their future learning opportunities. 
      • Example Hands-On Experience: A class is learning about the Industrial Revolution. Demonstrate to the students how Makerspace machines have evolved throughout the years. Prompt them to think about how this evolution occurred and challenge them to predict how the resources may develop as technology enhances. Assign a project in which they have to create a product utilizing both the “traditional” and “modern” methods of a machine. Conclude with a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of that machine evolution.
      • Example Hands-On Experience: A business course is teaching their students how to stand out from their competitors when going into a job interview. Those students then travel to the Makerspace to learn how to create successful branding for their professional materials. The students are exposed to the laser cutter where they learn how to operate the machine and create their own wooden and acrylic business cards.  
  • Makerspace Tours
    • Tours allow students who may have never stepped foot in the makerspace before the opportunity to understand the resources available, ask introductory questions (how to access space, hours of operation, trainings), and generate ideas on how they can utilize the facility for their future projects (academic and personal)
  • Projects
    • Hands-on projects allow students to think creatively, problem solve and generate a deeper understanding of the lesson they are learning. Consider assigning a hands-on project based out of the makerspace. 
      • Example Project Idea: An education class assigns the prompt: “As a first grade teacher, you have to create a display for a science lesson discussing the makeup of plants and how they grow. This demo must be created in the makerspace and incorporate at least two machines”. As this education class goes into their profession, they will now be aware of different resources that may be available to them within their school district or library. This early exposure will aid them in the growth of their career as it does during their college courses. 
      • Example Project Idea: An architecture class is learning how to work with AutoCAD but the professor wants the students to understand how their drawings translate to physical models. The professor then brings their class into the makerspace and the students learn how to convert their dxf files into the appropriate settings for the laser cutter software. Their project prompt is to create a scaled model of the drawings they created on AutoCAD using the laser cutter and cardboard. The final submission will include a physical model and their AutoCAD drawing. 
  • Guest Lecturer
    • Share your personal experiences in the industry and how you have directly applied the Makerspace resources to your practices. Generate excitement with your successes but be open and honest to the students regarding your failures. Serving as a guest lecturer allows students to understand the practicality and importance of facilities like the Makerspace as it directly applies to their future life and career.  

As you work through the development of your Makerspace and the growth of student attendees, intentionally collaborate with the faculty members at your university. Present at university forums, host facility tours and open houses and work one-on-one to design a class session that aids to the students’ experience. These tips and tricks will have courses flocking to your Makerspace each semester.  

[Feature Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash]

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Sabrina Shankar

Sabrina has spent the last 8 years working in a variety of digital, fabrication, and makerspace labs leading to her current role supervising a fine art studio and makerspace at Bucknell University. Her passion for integrating fine art mediums with modern technology has developed unique programs and new opportunities for ways in which participants can connect with the makerspace. In her free time, Sabrina consults for makerspaces across the country to aid in the development and growth of their facility.

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