Chief Information Officer
Associate Professor of Computer Science
Like many liberal arts colleges, on any given night, Union College students across campus are sewing costumes in the theater shop, sawing wood using a table saw in the visual arts studio, and soldering robotic sensors and converting popcorn machines into coffee roasters in the engineering machine lab. Too often, however, these activities happen in isolation, with few opportunities for students in different disciplines to interact. The key to integrating Makerspaces into the liberal arts (and vice versa) lies in establishing more organic opportunities for these creative innovators to interact, pool their resources and share their skills. Union College created the MakerWeb Consortium as a model for bridging the conventionally tech-centric Makerspace movement and the liberal arts. The MakerWeb staff includes a Makerspace Coordinator whose role is to bring together the skills, equipment and users into a cohesive unit. Union established the National Science Foundation-funded Collaborative Design Studio (UCDS) to provide research level 3D printers (Stratasys Objet Connex 5000 and six Makerbot printers and one Cubify 3D scanner) in a common space. Students and faculty across the disciplines solve cutting-edge design challenges and spark numerous interdisciplinary research collaborations. The Idea Lab, created this summer in the library, is designed based upon the experiences two students had as Innovation Fellows while they participated in the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation Fellowship held at Stanford’s Design School and at Google’s Garage. The Innovation Fellowship focused on creative problem-solving and the design phase needed before the prototype is created in the UCDS. A recently awarded Mellon grant, “Our Shared Humanities,” funds stipends for humanities faculty to develop new modes of teaching and research including making. At the core of this MakerWeb Consortium lies the MakerCorps, a cohort of skilled and motivated undergraduates recruited from departments across the college. The MakerCorps acts as rapid prototyping consultants and peer mentors for the college.