Learn about the different MSU makerspaces

Did you know there are eight makerspaces spread across Michigan State University? A collective group of individuals have been working together since January in order to better inform you about them.

What is a makerspace?

A makerspace traditionally is seen as a workshop with tools, machinery, supplies, and space to make things. It’s also meant to be a place where cross-collaboration and pollination can occur to generate bigger and better outcomes.

In the world of academia, makerspaces have been evolving into a broader context involving technology and new approaches to learning. (Check out the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) article, 7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces.)

Growing interest in campus makerspaces

In December 2014, IT Services helped organize a collective meeting for anyone on campus who was in some way affiliated with one or more of of the makerspaces. In that meeting, we conducted a design studio brainstorm activity to better understand where these spaces overlapped, where they were lacking and how these spaces could better serve faculty and students.We found two distinctive areas that nearly everyone said needed some attention:

  1. Faculty development within the context of makerspaces
  2. Communication about these spaces on campus

In January 2015, two working groups were formed: one focused on faculty development within makerspaces and the other focused on communications of the spaces. Since that time, I have had the pleasure of working with both of these groups to wrestle through the various challenges posed by the outcomes of the December 2014 meeting.

Faculty makerspace working group

The faculty working group is made up of participants from the College of Business, College of Engineering, MSU Global, MSU Libraries, Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, and IT Services Teaching and Learning Technology.

We realized early on that we needed to identify faculty perceptions and knowledge of makerspaces, so we designed a survey to gather this information. The survey first went out in June 2015 and we will be sending it out again in September 2015. The survey will close on November 1, and then we’ll analyze the data. A report will be delivered to the larger audience of makerspace enthusiasts on campus at our year-end recap meeting in December 2015 to help inform and guide future makerspace endeavors.

Upcoming MSU Makerspace events

The faculty working group also planned a Lilly Seminar with the Office of Faculty and Organizational Development that will take place on Friday, September 25. The seminar, while geared at informing and inspiring faculty, will consist of a panel of faculty, students and staff from each space. The program will be a round-robin style event, with participants gaining insights from each space including how it’s been used, what resources are available and how MSU students have utilized the space.

As a follow-up to the Lilly Seminar, the group is hosting a MSU Makerspace Open House on Friday, October 16, from 8:30-11:30 a.m., which is designed to feel a bit like a scavenger hunt experience. Maps of the campus spaces will be provided and participants will have the opportunity to visit each space at their leisure. There are also opportunities to win prizes along the way.

Communications makerspace working group

The communications working group is made up of participants from the College of Arts and Letters, MSU Libraries, MSU Union, and IT Services Teaching and Learning Technology.

The group’s initial goal was to create an online presence that would serve as a hub of information to all of the makerspaces on campus. The group worked with each space on campus to collect consistent information about each space, take photos and video, and talk with space leaders about the ways their spaces are currently being utilized.

The group then researched what types of makerspace information is currently shared at other institutions and discovered makerspaces seem to be in their infancy within academia without a central hub of information. Colleges and universities had individual pages or small makerspace sites, but much of it appeared to be on a small scale.

The communications working group is in the process of creating an online hub of makerspace information for Michigan State University. We’ve worked to design a comprehensive and cohesive site that will serve faculty, staff, and students who want to “make” nearly anything. The MSU Makerspace site will launch by the end of September.

It’s our hope that the work performed during 2015 will serve as a springboard to further enhance the cross collaboration between these makerspaces, creating a strong presence of maker culture at MSU.