A space of their own making

24 October 2011

AMHERST, Mass.–A crucial component of encouraging the next generation of students in science and engineering is the maker/hacker culture that is blossoming across the country.

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We saw it in Detroit at Maker Faire; we saw it in the cornfields of Illinois; and we saw it in the rolling hills of Western Massachusetts, where professors and administrators have allied to turn an under-used lab space into a hive of engineering creativity just for students.

We bumped into UMass Amherst engineering professor T. Baird Soules at Embedded Systems Conference. He had corralled a few of his students and brought them into Boston as part of a mentoring program initiated by our colleagues at EDN.

We fired up the GPS and roared out the Mass Pike to see him and his students a few days later. He walked us down a set of stairs into what can only be described as an engineering Eden: M5, a welcoming, open learning environment just for electrical engineering and computer engineering students.

“We’re here to foster projects. We’re here to enable students to engage in hardware and software projects from day one.”

Check out our tour, and let us know if you are involved in maker/hacker programs in your community to involve students in science and engineering or if you think it’s just a passing fad?

Tom October 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Vote -1 Vote +1

Hands-on is where it’s at.
There is nothing that begins to compare to the ability to take something you think you learned in class and turn it into reality.

the UMass ECE/M5 gang has been working at not only getting ECE students to “get their hands dirty” but also to work with inner-city schools to get middle-school and high-school kids exposed to the awesome fun that EE/CS holds..

They cranked out a pile of demo kits for the Women in Engineering Career Day.

And, of course, there’s Circuits and Beats.. the past two summers I’ve attended “demo day” in downtown Springfield MA, where the kids have just floored me with their answers to fairly deep questions about how this thing they are showing me actually works.

The kids, indeed, are “alright” . . we need to work harder to awaken them to what’s possible.

…tom

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