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State of Making Report Highlights University Best Practices for Maker Movement

June 18, 2015

Academic institutions throughout the nation are committing themselves to the Maker movement, with the hopes of empowering a culture on their campus that promotes student confidence, STEM education, and hands-on creativity, according to a recent report by the MakeSchools Higher Education Alliance. Created in response to the Obama administration’s activities around Maker spaces, such as the White House Maker Faire in June 2014, the MakeSchools Higher Education Alliance is a consortium of more than 150 higher education institutions (research universities, colleges, and community colleges) committed to supporting Maker activities as an element of STEM education. Coordinated by Carnegie Mellon University and seven other schools, the network seeks to establish K-12 pipelines that provide higher-level education through Maker portfolios, enhance and expand Maker facilities on campuses, and develop new scholarships and opportunities for aspiring Makers.

The State of Making Report highlights the work of 40 of the higher education institutions active in the MakeSchools Alliance movement, with principal findings organized around six themes:  

  • Defining “Maker Culture” in higher education;
  • Fostering Maker Culture on campus;
  • Approaches to Maker education;
  • Resources: Makerspaces and tools;
  • Community engagement and partnerships; and,
  • Successes: value, impact and benefit.

The student Maker experience on American college campuses is driven largely by creativity and doing, with students becoming increasingly involved in hands-on activities with an outward focus – pairing practical learning with purposeful outcomes, according to the report. While most Maker education experiences are typically based in engineering programs, cross-disciplinary collaborations grounded in complex, real-world problem solving are also common. As campuses invest in new spaces, curricula, and partnerships to foster a Maker Culture, more transparency and shared approaches to policy and maintenance are seen as a key need.

Higher education institutions detailed in the report do not subscribe to a common definition of Maker Culture; however they do follow common themes. For example, both Texas A&M University and Santa Clara University suggest that Maker Culture includes an element of entrepreneurialism. Other definitions, such as those from the University of Oregon, Sonoma State University, and the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota emphasize the importance of Maker Culture’s societal impact. Definitions provided by schools such as North Carolina A&T State, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Youngstown State University suggest that the Maker movement extends beyond the confines of the university through community and national partnerships.

As a means of strengthening Maker Culture in higher education, the report also identifies four recommendations, each with several potential future actions. Recommendations include:

  • Continuing to identify shared definitions and common approaches to measuring success and impact of Making at higher education institutions;
  • Encouraging institutions to build partnerships beyond the campus (e.g., industry, government, K-12 schools, broader Maker movement) to broaden connectivity within the Maker movement;
  • Developing and sharing best practices among the varying types of institutions that support Making; and,
  • Pursuing “grand challenges” to encourage the use of Making as a means for global problem solving.     

The State of Making Report can be found here (.pdf): http://make.xsead.cmu.edu/week_of_making/report

higher ed, entrepreneurship, manufacturing