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Designing Learning through Makerspaces
The UD Maker Gym and Idea Network is taking shape with appointments of directors and faculty fellows.

Designing Learning through Makerspaces

Leadership, Faculty Fellows named for UD Maker Gym and Idea Network

The University of Delaware Maker Gym and Idea Network has taken a big step in its journey from vision to reality with the appointment this summer of its first faculty director, an associate director, and a class of faculty fellows from across the University who will help shape the space and expand the network of users by designing courses rooted in design and prototyping.

Maker spaces have proliferated across the University campus in recent years, some designed for supporting research, others focused on education. But so far they have often been relatively compact and always housed within particular colleges.

Mohsen Badiey, acting dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), saw an opportunity for the maker approach to achieve more at the University by connecting the existing units into a network and making it an educational opportunity for undergraduate students.  He partnered with Dan Freeman, the director of Horn Entrepreneurship, to bring in the mindset connecting academic innovation with real-world needs. Together they developed and submitted a proposal two years ago to create the UD Maker Gym and Idea Network, which is supported by a Unidel grant. Nearly 30 faculty members from across the University contributed their insight about what was needed and how to build success through three different committees.

“It became a faculty-driven initiative,” Badiey said. “Each person coming in has their own individual signature on this. They are the creators of this, and the UD maker space is unique and specific to UD.”

The “UD Maker Gym Faculty Fellows” are the latest round of faculty being brought into the process to ensure the project grows in an organic, creative way. Some of them have been involved since the early stages of the project, and others are completely new to it. But all will shape what it becomes as students start to benefit.

The fellows are from five of the University’s seven colleges, representing fields ranging from plant and soil science to fashion. Faculty submitted proposals to use the space for nine undergraduate courses, some new and some reimagined, as well as the expansion of a popular summer workshop for high school teachers of engineering. Topics for the undergraduate courses range from exploring autonomous driving to creating props and costumes for theatre.

While they all envision creating specific items relevant to their particular discipline using the physical assets of the UD Maker Gym, course proposals also included examples of ways the diversity of UD Maker Gym’s users could benefit research projects. For instance, a proposal from the chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Edmund Nowak, detailed how he hopes to use the space to engage students in project-based learning by launching a high-altitude balloon, but noted that their project could involve electrical engineering students, for optimizing the telemetry that will allow the balloon’s recovery, or CEOE students, who might want to add sensors to gather atmospheric data for their own work.

In the coming months, the faculty fellows will work out the details of their proposed courses and contribute to the building of UD Maker Gym by helping to identify the tools, materials and equipment that will allow them to accomplish their plans. Their courses are tentatively planned to be offered in 2018, though their fellowships run until June 2019.

The two colleges not represented among the fellows supplied the faculty director and associate director of UD Maker Gym and Idea Network. Art Trembanis, associate professor of oceanography in CEOE, is the new faculty director. Trembanis is one of the faculty members who has been instrumental in the success of CEOE’s Robotic Discovery Laboratories, a makerspace in Lewes focused on research and graduate student education.

“UD Maker Gym is meant to be something unique that provides a larger footprint for student engagement and brings together expertise and perspectives from a wide variety of fields, while also serving as a way to connect the makerspaces around the University and shine a light on all of this creative experimentation,” Trembanis said.

Martha Hall has been named associate director. She is a fashion designer and researcher for the Move To Learn Innovation Lab at STAR Campus and a Ph.D. student in biomechanics and movement science, under the advisement of Michele Lobo, assistant professor.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting new initiative at UD. Makerspaces provide a much-needed design and collaboration opportunity for the students, staff and faculty,” Hall said. “We are adding to UD's long history of ‘making’ by creating this new open-access space at Pearson and building a network across existing spaces.”

UD Maker Gym will actually provide additional collaborative opportunity through a partnership with a College of Engineering Unidel project that is creating the Direct Digital Design and Manufacturing Institute (3DMI). A project within 3DMI will share space with UD Maker Gym in the old gymnasium at the back of Pearson Hall, where Mark Mirotznik will lead 3DMI's research effort in additive manufacturing.

These cross-discipline collaborations are a hallmark of the reasoning behind the new UD Maker Gym and Idea Network, which aims to spark student and faculty success by combining the emphasis on interdisciplinary cooperation in CEOE with the innovation mindset that is studied, taught and put into practice by Horn Entrepreneurship.

“When people think about makerspaces, they think about the physical process of making something, whether soldering electronics or 3-D printing customized prosthetics,” Freeman said. “But any successful project has to begin in a thorough, creative and ultimately very practical process of identifying, exploring, and solving a problem. That is also the process at the root of our program.”

Badiey said he sees the combination of that entrepreneurial approach with the ingenuity of scientists, engineers, artists and others from all over the University as the key to the success of the UD Maker Gym and Idea Network, which he believes will benefit the entire University of Delaware.

“In the UD Maker Gym we are tapping into the creative potential of our students, and we are trying to collaborate with disciplines beyond science and engineering, between STEM and non-STEM fields,” Badiey said. “This is the future of academic institutions. Successful academic institutions will rely on the creativity that we as educators will develop in our students, and with this approach, UD Maker Gym will provide the incubator for that creativity and innovation.”

UD Maker Gym and Idea Network Leadership

Co-Leader – Mohsen Badiey, College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment

Co-Leader – Dan Freeman, Horn Entrepreneurship

Faculty Director - Art Trembanis, School of Marine Science and Policy

Associate Director - Martha Hall, Department of Physical Therapy

UD Maker Gym Faculty Fellows

Jenni Buckley, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Jules Bruck, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences

Kelly Cobb, Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies

Stefanie Hansen, Department of Theatre

Guoquan Huang, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Tony Middlebrooks, Horn Entrepreneurship

Edmund Nowak, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Amy Trauth, School of Education

Lance Winn, Department of Art & Design

Direct Digital Design and Manufacturing Institute

Director – John Gillespie Jr., College of Engineering

Associate Director, Additive Manufacturing Research – Mark Mirotznik, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


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