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Summer in the MakerSpace

I have the privilege of being the Student Manager in the MakerSpace this summer and during my senior year.  I am fortunate enough to work with some amazingly innovative students, staff, and faculty to create most anything imaginable!

Most everyone I talked to last spring told me that summer in Burlington is slower paced than the rest of the academic year– I found the opposite to be true on our campus.  While the academic year is busy with academic and personal work in the MakerSpace, the summer months are a perfect time for us to tackle some unique and more intensive projects.

From the first day of summer, we hit the ground running, preparing for one of the Accelerated Summer College (ASC) Courses, Topics in Education, taught by Professor MaryBeth Doyle. Professor Doyle has been hosting classes in the MakerSpace since the fall of 2015, and has been innovating non-traditional learning through hands-on, problem solving assignments.  To say the very least, Professor Doyle kept her students busy with hands-on trainings to get ready for their final project.  In order to help meet learning outcomes outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards, her students were tasked with integrating pre-programmed technology with analog technology.  The students presented their work at the ASC Academic Symposium at the end of the program.  Professor Doyle was impressed with the dedication and hard work exemplified by her students, and said this of her course:

The MakerSpace provides opportunities for students to work with materials that they have little or no prior experience with. … My course, Topics in Education, was structured around weekly objectives that each student had to meet, but they had many avenues to meet them. So often education is focused on achieving a right answer, but this class encouraged students to take risks to fail and to fail often.  I was much more interested in their abilities to engage curiosity, problem-solving, and risk taking… and they certainly did all three!”

ASC students Pete Nasca (left) and Emma Rippe (right) working to build and program Lego robots for their final presentation.

Once ASC was over, we were far from having a moment to breathe.  The MakerSpace prepared for three weeks of renovation and to welcome four new Makerbot Replicator + 3D printers, a Silhouette multimaterial cutter, and several donations from the SMC community. Concurrently, a team of SMC staff, faculty, and outside community members avidly worked over a period of five weeks to hack a Power Wheels car for a five-year-old St. Albans girl with Muscular Dystrophy.  Following a similar work flow to GoBabyGo out of the University of Delaware, this team rewired the vehicle and added accessibility features to make independent exploration more available to the little girl. This car will be a part of her elementary community as she enters Kindergarten this fall, and the team looks forward to the possibility of taking on another project for another young child.

Modified Power Wheels Car 

Along with the many projects we tackled this summer, the MakerSpace also hosted a variety of workshops and trainings throughout the summer and warmly welcomed some new faces into the space, including a group of 20 Japanese technical students.  Between making new signage for the math department, running sign-making workshops, and helping along with personal project endeavors, we were nothing short of busy in the best way.  With summer ending soon, we have been diligently working to plan for the six classes that will be hosted in the MakerSpace during the fall semester, as well as planning new workshops and trainings for students, staff, and faculty.  We are excited to welcome professors from the Art Department, Biology Department, Mathematics Department, Education Department, Applied Linguistics Department, and members from the Academic Enrichment Commons for a plethora of new opportunities for students. We look forward to seeing many more faces in the fall, and we thank everyone for an exciting and productive summer!

Nicole Kordana, Student Manager