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The Santa Clara University Maker Lab: Creating the Lab, Engaging the Community, and Promoting Entrepreneurial-minded Learning

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Christopher Kitts Santa Clara University

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Christopher Kitts is as Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Santa Clara University where he serves as Director of the Robotic Systems Laboratory and as the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development in the School of Engineering. Kitts runs an aggressive field robotics program focused on the the design and operational control of robotic systems ranging from underwater robots to spacecraft. As part of this activity, Kitts serves as the Mission Operations Director for a series of NASA spacecraft, as an affiliate researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and as a KEEN Fellow for Santa Clara's program in undergraduate innovation and entrepreneurship education. Kitts' previous experience includes service as a satellite constellation mission controller in the U.S. Air Force, as a technical contractor for NASA Ames Research Center, and as a DoD Research Fellow at the U.S. Philips Laboratory. He holds degrees from Princeton University, the University of Colorado, and Stanford University. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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Anne Mahacek Santa Clara University

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Anne Mahacek received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of California, Merced. She earned her M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in Robotics and Mechatronics from Santa Clara University (SCU). She is currently employed by SCU where her responsibilities include organizing student engagement activities focused on entrepreneurial mindset and managing the SCU Maker Lab. Recently, she launched the SCU Mobile Maker Lab for outreach with K-12 schools.

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The Maker Movement is taking the country by storm. From the emergence of educational and community Fablabs to the programs spawned by the White House’s annual National Day of Making, the Maker Movement is generating enormous excitement in hands-on creation and is stimulating interest in innovation and entrepreneurial activities. Contributing to the popularity of the Maker Movement are the accessibility of low-cost manufacturing tools like 3D printers and laser cutters, availability of cheap and simple embedded controllers, interest in open hardware as a complement to open software, emergence of new device-oriented markets like drones and the internet of things, online sharing of tutorial videos and hackable reference designs, the popularity of crowdfunding opportunities, and the resurgence of interest in US manufacturing capabilities.

Many universities have, or are in the process of establishing, a Maker Lab in order to be a part of this movement. In most cases, these programs are experiencing massive student interest in using these spaces and tools, with students gathering in interdisciplinary groups to design new gadgets and taking pleasure in the act of making things. Many programs have had great success in the initial tasks involved in setting up these spaces, acquiring tools, addressing safety and liability challenges, and establishing appropriate training programs. In many cases, however, there remains ample opportunity to improve the manner in which these Labs are integrated into the educational program, particularly when it comes to supporting Entrepreneurially Minded Learning (EML). In some sense, it is ironic that we speak about how these Labs are stimulating entrepreneurial activity, yet there often is little to no formality in how such activity is educationally guided. Our hypothesis is that intentional EML-oriented educational activities can better steer our students in constructive ways of exploiting maker technology in order to efficiently create value.

In this paper, we will first review some of the opportunities and challenges that arise in creating a Maker Lab program within a University environment, using our experience in developing the Santa Clara University Maker Lab program over the past five years. Second, we will describe opportunities to leverage Maker Lab capabilities, not only in support of outreach activities such as K-12 and adult education, but also to establish an EML-ecosystem through collaborations with business schools and colleges of arts and science, enhancements to industry partnerships, and engagement in EML-oriented outreach and community service activities. Finally, and we will describe the ways we have integrated the use of a Maker Lab in EML activities within course modules, hands-on courses, and real-world engineering projects.

Kitts, C., & Mahacek, A. (2017, June), The Santa Clara University Maker Lab: Creating the Lab, Engaging the Community, and Promoting Entrepreneurial-minded Learning Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29011

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