Interdisciplinary Engagement

While students, faculty, and staff from mechanical engineering and electrical engineering are natural customers for any makerspace, the question remains as to “how to engage other disciplines?”  There is no single answer to this question, but rather a variety of approaches and techniques.

The “build it and they will come” methodology can only work as a strategy for wide-spread adoption of a higher education makerspace if individuals know that the space is available and accessible to all.  In this regards a bit of guerilla marketing may be in order, perhaps using posters on departmental bulletin boards or targeted information sessions used to introduce the concept of makerspaces to a wide variety of academic disciplines.

Sharing news about interesting projects from a variety of disciplines is another technique to draw in diverse users.  Campus news bureaus, including their social media components, are usually eager to share interesting articles that highlight product development and cross-disciplinary cooperation.  Embedding lines in such stories that provide instructions on how others can use the makerspace for creative projects can help draw in new makerspace participants.

Public workshops and social events are another mechanism to introduce the concept of making to not-yet-maker disciplines.  The public workshops could be short (1-2 hour) introductions of common making techniques such as microprocessor programming, the use of hand tools, 3D printing and analog circuits.   Social events, such as a mini-maker-fair or a make-themed Halloween social, are mechanisms to bring in new people and energy into makerspaces.

Directly approaching faculty who have courses (or portions of courses) that could benefit from the resources in a higher education makerspace is one more method of attracting a wide group of backgrounds to making. For example, challenging students in a foreign language class to model (with the help of makerspace staff) to an object they read about and interpret in an original text is one means to exposing language students to making.

As another example, since many colleges have experiential design-oriented courses (covering topics such as creating appropriate technologies for developing countries or examining air/water quality sampling methodologies), partnering with the faculty leading such courses can introduce new individuals to the making environment. Another rich source of energy and creativity can be found in art and music departments, as the technology available in makerspaces can be used to design new creations in those disciplines.

It will take a bit of selling and a focused approach to increasing awareness, but higher education makerspaces that wish to engage

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