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What we can learn from US universities

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A visit to innovation hubs at universities in the US has fuelled plans to create an exciting new space for all University of Auckland students.

In November Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Director Wendy Kerr lead the group on a visit to Stanford University, MIT, Yale University, University of Southern California, Duke University and Case Western Reserve University.

The group included Himendra Ratnayake (Facilities and Services Manager), James Speers (Associate Professor of Fine Arts) and Peter Hosking (Project Manager at Engender Technologies).

Each of the universities showed off their learning lab or “makerspace” – a workshop type facility equipped with 3D printers, scanners, laser cutters, sewing machines, soldering irons, woodwork tools and photography equipment, among other things.

“These spaces provide immense value for students,” Kerr says. “They increase motivation, improve understanding of the materials and how components are bought together. Additionally, their horizons open up to new possibilities in their future careers. People like doing things and having the autonomy to follow their desires.

“By letting students experiment, and play on the equipment, they can then see what is possible in relation to their studies. The makerspaces have been used in some unusual ways, such as one student using the 3 D printers to print specimens for a 3D mammogram she was making for her physics class and an evolutionary biologist scanning monkey bones, and printing 3D replicas to study evolution with his peers around the world.

“In the majority of spaces the learning is community-based, so there is a lot of peer-to-peer instruction. This builds students’ confidence and communication skills.”

The makerspaces were designed for students at all levels, and had high visibility within the university. Large windows allowed passers-by to watch the activity, and news and events were shared widely via social media, publicity and word-of-mouth.

Kerr says five themes were recurring across each space – community, creativity, flexibility, pride and collaboration.

“The elements of these, and to what level they were apparent, differed between each space. It came down to the people leading and working in the space. Their ideas, enthusiasm, user connection and experience dictated the way the space was organised, how programmes were run and how well utilised the space was.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach but rather a purpose-built approach determined by faculty needs, staffing bandwidth, and student needs and demands. Many spaces started off just for engineering but demand meant that they morphed into being accessible for the entire student community.”

Makerspaces are becoming a significant within US education institutions, and the inaugural International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces at MIT sold out in November with 200 attendees.

Kerr says plans are underway to create an innovation and entrepreneurial makerspace at the University of Auckland in 2017.

 

What we can learn from US universities
What we can learn from US universities

social media

A visit to innovation hubs at universities in the US has fuelled plans to create an exciting new space for all University of Auckland students.

In November Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Director Wendy Kerr lead the group on a visit to Stanford University, MIT, Yale University, University of Southern California, Duke University and Case Western Reserve University.

The group included Himendra Ratnayake (Facilities and Services Manager), James Speers (Associate Professor of Fine Arts) and Peter Hosking (Project Manager at Engender Technologies).

Each of the universities showed off their learning lab or “makerspace” – a workshop type facility equipped with 3D printers, scanners, laser cutters, sewing machines, soldering irons, woodwork tools and photography equipment, among other things.

“These spaces provide immense value for students,” Kerr says. “They increase motivation, improve understanding of the materials and how components are bought together. Additionally, their horizons open up to new possibilities in their future careers. People like doing things and having the autonomy to follow their desires.

“By letting students experiment, and play on the equipment, they can then see what is possible in relation to their studies. The makerspaces have been used in some unusual ways, such as one student using the 3 D printers to print specimens for a 3D mammogram she was making for her physics class and an evolutionary biologist scanning monkey bones, and printing 3D replicas to study evolution with his peers around the world.

“In the majority of spaces the learning is community-based, so there is a lot of peer-to-peer instruction. This builds students’ confidence and communication skills.”

The makerspaces were designed for students at all levels, and had high visibility within the university. Large windows allowed passers-by to watch the activity, and news and events were shared widely via social media, publicity and word-of-mouth.

Kerr says five themes were recurring across each space – community, creativity, flexibility, pride and collaboration.

“The elements of these, and to what level they were apparent, differed between each space. It came down to the people leading and working in the space. Their ideas, enthusiasm, user connection and experience dictated the way the space was organised, how programmes were run and how well utilised the space was.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach but rather a purpose-built approach determined by faculty needs, staffing bandwidth, and student needs and demands. Many spaces started off just for engineering but demand meant that they morphed into being accessible for the entire student community.”

Makerspaces are becoming a significant within US education institutions, and the inaugural International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces at MIT sold out in November with 200 attendees.

Kerr says plans are underway to create an innovation and entrepreneurial makerspace at the University of Auckland in 2017.

 


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