Since its inception three years ago, Davidson's makerspace, Studio M, has grown in popularity and capability. So why are makerspaces like Studio M becoming so popular? And why are people excited about the maker movement?
Makerspaces provide access to a technological world once seen as exclusive, limited only to those possessing particular skill sets. The campus makerspace was designed to be a place for experimentation, mentoring and sharing skills, explained Studio M's Maker-in-Chief Brian Little.
When Little is asked, "What can you do in a makerspace?" he usually answers with the question, "What do you want to do?"
Students and faculty members can learn and work with 3D printers, drones and other electronics—no background knowledge required. The possible activities range from 3D printing models of molecules to using circuit boards and programming platforms in order to turn on a light with a cell phone.
Makerspaces are also a safe place for failure—failure as a step toward the ultimate goal of success.
"Fail early; fail often; succeed faster. The maker culture can function as an antidote to the mentality that asking questions or failing is a weakness," said Little.
Many people never start or pursue an interest because of their fear of failure. Studio M eliminates this inhibition and serves as a place where "do-it-yourself" meets mentoring. Students can start a project while sharing skills and receiving guidance.
The popularity of the maker movement also is attributable to the wide variety of applications of the technologies available through the space.
"An art major can start a career in jewelry design using 3D printing, a technology that has also found its way into advanced medical research," Little explained. "In archaeology, the Smithsonian is 3D scanning a portion of their collection to 3D print for the public. This allows a more intimate interaction with artifacts—touch is a form of understanding."
The maker movement also encourages participants to find new ways to solve problems that don't necessarily need a technological solution.
"We're proud that Studio M, with strong direction and staffing from a top-tier student team, is quickly becoming best in field—both for its hard/software offerings and programming," said Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hannah Levinson. "As Davidson continues to build and grow the foremost innovation and entrepreneurship initiative amongst liberal arts institutions, Studio M is an integral part of that leadership—a space that allows students and faculty to fail together, forward and quickly, while advancing cross-disciplinary creative experimentation, tinkering and problem-solving."
Studio M is currently hosting workshops, which will continue for the rest of the semester, from 4-5 p.m. Mondays, 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays. Each day has a different theme: Maker Mondays, Tear Down Tuesdays and Fix-It Fridays.
In particular, Maker Mondays focus on a specific technology for each workshop. One such technology is LittleBits, a device that allows people with little to no knowledge of electronics to prototype and build electronics with magnetic circuit boards.
Little, who leads these workshops, is in the process of training students to teach them as well.
"The Tear Downs and Fix Its serve to reinforce what the maker effort is about: Making as a way of knowing and understanding. The liberal arts education offered by Davidson encourages students to look at something and think about it from different angles and new perspectives; this holds true in makerspaces," said Little.