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.
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?