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Teaching and Learning

Engaging Students Across Disciplines in Makerspace Activities (Part 1)

Want to learn more about the BMCC Makerspace? Join Kar Rosen (lab manager) and Anna Pinkas (MEA faculty and Makerspace director) at a Makerspace workshop, May 11 @ 9:45AM on Zoom. We will focus on brainstorming Maker-centered projects you could use in your classes in the Summer/Fall (virtually or in-person). Please come with your ideas and questions. In the meantime, you can follow the BMCC Makerspace on Instagram.

Did you know that BMCC has a Makerspace available to all faculty and students? You have probably heard the word Makerspace in recent years, and you might have taken a moment to wonder: what is a Makerspace exactly?

By their very nature, Makerspace communities are geared towards interdisciplinary learning. Here at BMCC, we very much encourage students and faculty from all disciplines to make use of this very valuable resource. In this post, we will give an overview of Makerspace culture, and how the Makerspace can be used in different fields of studies. At current, the physical Makerspace has been closed, but we have curated a wealth of virtual resources that can be accessed anytime and anywhere– we will be highlighting them more in a second post.

A Makerspace is a place meant to encourage people to create, experiment, and develop ideas. Makerspaces are part research lab, part classroom, part studio, and provide tools and lessons on how to use them.

These can be analog tools like markers, paint and paper, electronic ones like the Arduino microcontroller, LEDs and sensors, or fabrication tools like sewing machines, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, and 3D Printers! No two Makerspaces are ever truly alike, even if they house the same exact equipment. Because it’s not just the tools that make the Makerspace, it’s also the community of people that built, maintain, and use it.

Makerspace culture is very much a collaborative one. You may have heard of the term Open Source, which is a type of program whose source code was meant to be improved, studied, and shared with its users. A Makerspace can be thought of as the physical equivalent of Open Source software: a place where people can share, study, and build upon ideas and skills. It’s a community whose members may have different backgrounds or skill levels, but share a love of learning and creating. The professional, hobbyist, and curious guest come together – perhaps to learn how to make a circuit board, how to make a neat toy using 3D printing, or even how to sew and upcycle old clothing and bedding into tote bags… just to name a few possibilities.

This DIY and collaborative mindset is a feature of the wider Maker culture, as you’ll find by exploring these resources:

Given that the ideal Maker community is one of curious and passionate people of differing expertise, interdisciplinary learning is part and parcel of the Makerspace. Some examples that come to mind are:

At BMCC, the Makerspace has been used by students and faculty across departments. While we are highlighting what we’ve done before closing, we are now making the shift to converting some of these into virtual classes. So far:

  • We teamed up with Dr. Azhar from the Computer Science Department and hosted a workshop where students learned some basic digital fabrication and programming concepts. Students each designed their own letter to be cut on the vinyl cutter and attached it to their robot. They would then have to navigate the room to spell out the phrase “Love Robots”.
  • Students and faculty together learned the basics of 3D modeling and designed their own personal keychain– a fun way of understanding the basics of 3D design to help spark future ideas!

 

  •  While unable to print, we have successfully hosted this workshop fully online with the browser-based Tinkercad software. Because there weren’t print limitations, many of the students were able to get more creative!

 

  • Students in the MMA100 – Foundations of Digital Graphic Design class designed landscape dioramas using paper and a  vinyl cutter.

 

  • In MEA 211 – Introduction to Digital Fabrication and Physical Computing, students designed and fabricated original characters, building them in a range of materials, from paper silhouettes to printed 3D models. (Images following courtesy of Westley Barcliff)
  • Students from several other departments come together in the Makerspace Club, Using the skills they learned to design and laser cut and etch jewelry.

 

This is by no means a definitive list, but a stepping stone in hopes of kickstarting your own ideas with your respective program. In the next part of this blog post, we will be covering our resources and ways you might want to utilize the Makerspace for your future projects!

Stay tuned for the second installment of this Makerspace blog post where we will explore the resources (both virtual and physical) the BMCC Makerspace has to offer.

 

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