Masthead image
May Seminar 2016 - Makerspace

With the support of the Center for the Liberal Arts, we are organizing a week-long May seminar on using novel makerspace technologies in the liberal arts classroom: 3D scanning and printing; laser cutting; computer-controlled fabrication in wood; robotics; and measurements and control of motion and sound with small micro-controllers and microprocessors. This is a continuation of the successful May seminar we organized last year.

Are you interested in using 3D scanners/printers to reproduce historical artifacts to pass around in class? Can you imagine 3D printing a topological map of a terrain before students go on a field trip? What can students learn by taking a drone-eye view of a historical or geological site? Can self-made robotics and automation increase the efficiency or decrease the cost of measuring environmental parameters in your class or laboratory? Can small mechanical constructions be made on a laser cutter out of acrylic or plywood? Can immersive 3D virtual reality vision help your students visualize class materials?

The Makerspace May seminar will be held from Monday May 16 to Friday May 20 (first week after commencement) for a maximum of 8 faculty members with the usual compensation of $100/day. A tentative schedule for the week would start with two days of introductory tutorials on how to use the technologies, including safety considerations and training for individual use. In the last three days the participants would work on a specific project that would result in a deliverable to be included in a course as a demonstration object or as an active learning component.

If you are interested, please contact Wouter Deconinck,, and indicate whether you can participate for the full week (considering the limitation on available funds, preference will be given to full-week faculty participants on a first-come basis). If you have integrated makerspace or similar activities in your courses, we look forward to including you as well!


Wouter Deconinck, Assistant Professor of Physics:

Organized this whole thing. Taught tutorials, provided assistance with projects. I have included in my COLL 100 Rocket Science class over the past semester a rocket design component.

Joanna Schug, Assistant Professor of Psychology:

This past week I participated in a May seminar on using novel makerspace technologies in the liberal arts classroom. In this seminar we learned about different types of manufacturing and fabrication processes, including 3d printing and scanning, laser cutting, andsoldering. We also learned about embedded systems and microcontrollers, such as Raspberry Pi and the Arduino microprocessor. During the seminar, I was able to brainstorm ways in which I might be able to use these technologies in the classroom, particularly in 400-level capstone courses in psychology, which could allow students to use novel methods and technologies for data collection. This seminar was also very helpful to enable discussion among participants on how to better facilitate interdisciplinary exchange between the arts, humanities, and biological/physical/social sciences, and how technologies such as those introduced during the seminar may contribute to this exchange.

Laurie Sanderson, Professor of Biology:

The Makerspace May seminar has been excellent in providing me with information and ideas for integrating design thinking and W&M maker facilities into my courses. The support network provided by the seminar organizers and participants will be invaluable. The immediate outcome of my seminar participation will be my Fall 2016 laboratory course (BIOL 456L, Vertebrate Biology Laboratory), focusing on a group project involving independent study and design thinking. During the May seminar, I was able to learn about options available on campus and online for 3D scanning, software manipulation of 3D images, and 3D printing, all of which will be essential for my Fall 2016 course. The May seminar gave me hands-on experience with these approaches, as well as the opportunity to watch the seminar organizers teach about these approaches. Teaching my new laboratory course during the Fall 2016 semester will enable me to apply this information to the development of a COLL 100 or COLL 200 course in future semesters.

Chris DeLaurenti, Visiting Assistant Professor of Music:

The Makerspace May Seminar will prove invaluable to my teaching, especially in my COLL 150 Music, Sound Design, and Science Fiction and COLL 200 Introduction to Computer Music courses. I was aware of some of the Makerspace resources, including 3D scanning and printing; laser cutting; and micro-controllers. Yet for me, the main value of this well-run and smartly organized Seminar rests in not only providing an orientation to these generous resources but also in modelling how to teach these devices, from basic concepts to initial projects.

My seminar project was an Arduino triggering piezo disks. The Arduino, a microcontroller, also includes an IDE (integrated development environment) which allows anyone to write code, creating a set of instructions for the Arudino to control movement, sound and/or various sensors of light, motion, temperature. data, etc.

Used as primitive speakers as well as contact microphones, piezo disks convert mechanical stress into electrical voltage. My piezo disk project used basic code to play a simple synthesized melody and replay that melody in canon through an amplified paper plate. This project is a useful prototype which will enable me to teach my students basic coding and circuit-building along with a few principles of sound synthesis and transduction.

The Friday presentations yielded a nice side benefit: learning from an array of diverse projects by fellow participants!

Margaret Saha, Professor of Biology:

My goals for participation in the Maker Space May Seminar were twofold: (1) To get ideas for how to introduce maker/design thinking and doing "early and often" through all my current (and future) courses, and to integrate introduce making/designing across all my courses, so students experience it from different perspectives, i.e. variations on a theme; (2) To get ideas for how to make the BioMakerSpace "work" (to integrate teaching & research, and with other Maker Spaces). The week provided us with many ideas and introduced us to many useful technologies. Based on topics covered at the May Seminar, my goals are to implement the following in the four courses I teach in 2016-2017.

Developmental Biology (BIOL 433): Juniors & Seniors, ~50 students

- Use software such as Sculptris to "design" (and possibly print) "embryo"

- Teaches form/function relationships, evolutionary constraints on development; introduces students to software and 3D printing technology which we discuss at end of course in context of regenerative medicine /tissue engineering

Molecular Cell Biology (BIOL 310): Sophomores & Juniors, ~100+ students

- Will take an "engineering" approach to cell biology; instead of memorizing parts and pathways, focus on "how do we make a cell?"

- As a class project, design and print components of cell (emphasizes "how big" and "how many"

- As individual projects students use "TinkerCell to design a cellular regulatory circuit

Freshmen Honors Lab: Synthetic Biology (BIOL 298/299), Freshmen, ~12 students

- Lab class in Synthetic Biology; following the topic covered in Introductory Biology, first semester will focus on designing a useful circuit that is relevant to environmental biology and ecology and second semester will design a project relevant to cell-molecular-developmental biology

- Would like students to design/build the circuit on three levels:

1. Circuit diagram using software such as TinkerCell

2. "Physical" electronic circuit

3. Genetically engineered circuit

"Phage Lab" (BIOL 226 - Lab Course), Freshmen, ~20 students

- Goal of this lab is to discover novel viruses from the environment

- First semester: students identify precise location and environmental parameters of their soil samples using sensors made by other classes, clubs

- Second semester: build 3D models of their virus based on sequence analysis of their proteins

In addition, I would like to continue conversations with colleagues to develop interdisciplinary COLL courses such as a COLL 100, "Designing Life" that entails perspectives from literature to synthetic biology or a COLL 400 that entails collaborative work designing and making a useful genetic circuit for environmental biology or medical applications.

Overall, this was an extremely well done and very productive May Seminar!

Josh Erlich, Associate Professor of Physics:

In my opinion this year's Makerspace May seminar was quite successful, perhaps even more so than last year. Some of the participants began the May seminar with specific technologies in mind that they wanted to acquire proficiency in, like 3D scanning and printing, while others developed ideas during the seminar for how to incorporate the Makerspace into their courses and research. My final project for the May seminar was a simple digital electronics project, based on the Arduino microcontroller, for use as a project-based lab in the high-school curriculum. The general idea for the lab is for students to take a device from everyday life and figure out how to re-engineer it. My prototype project was a pushbutton-controlled mechanical toothbrush (with motor and blinking LEDs, just like my three-year-old son's). Ten high-school teachers will be at W&M for a three-day QuarkNet workshop later this summer, and one day of the workshop will be spent learning about digital electronics and working on projects like these.

Jody Allen, Professor of History:

I participated in the Makerspace May Seminar May 16 - 20, 2016. I was aware of the Makerspace in Small Hall for sometime, but I didn't fully understand how it might be used in teaching, specifically I didn't understand how I might use it. I was very excited to see the announcement about the May Seminar. I have a much better understanding of the resource-3-D printing, laser printing, soldering, coding--and plan to use it in the future. I also intend to make sure that my students know about the availability of the Makerspace. I really appreciate the opportunity to take part in this May Seminar.

Lindsay Garcia & Khanh Vo, Graduate Students in American History:

As a graduate student in the American Studies program (and a video/performance artist), I chose to participate in the Makerspace workshop for a variety of reasons. I have an interest in developing skills as a digital humanist; I will be aiding Professor Liz Losh develop the Equality Lab in Morton Hall this summer and will hopefully teach workshops to undergraduates there; I desire to acquire tools for my own research/artwork; and I plan to develop practice-based course assignments for students when I teach an introductory course in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (SY 2017-2018) and a 470 course in American Studies (SY 2018-2019) that utilize both the Physics Makerspace and the Equality Lab.

For the time reserved to develop our own projects, I chose to tinker with Arduino technology and the 3D printer. In my own dissertation research, I am developing an interdisciplinary art project called Feminist Pest Control, which endeavors to apply DIY feminist technologies to issues that humans have with animals considered pests. In an independent study last semester, I used the Makerspace to create The Cockroach Disco, a space where cockroaches can enjoy themselves instead of living in fear of their human predators.

During the May seminar, I was able to begin working on two projects for Feminist Pest Control. I tinkered with electronics to enable me to build a motion sensor for a GoPro camera. Although I realized early on that this task was no easy one, I understand some basic electronics tools that I can play with this summer. This technology will go into another device, The Cockroach Hospice, a space where already poisoned cockroaches can go to die. The motion sensor camera will be installed to document the dying process. This idea, of photographing dying pests, emerges from the notion that most animals that are killed at industrial scales are killed out of sight (either behind the walls of the slaughterhouse, if a food animal, or in the walls of the home or other building, if a pest). If we could just visualize the pain of animals, then perhaps the killing could cease or more humane practices developed.

The second project was designed by Khanh Vo in Google Sketch Up, a 3D printed cockroach-shaped chocolate mold. The FDA allows a certain amount of insect fragments (and rodent filth) per gram into certain processed foods, and chocolate is a huge attractor of these bugs in its processing facilities. To be able to mold chocolate into the shape of the cockroach also allows us to visualize animal death in a more savory way.

The way that I see these kinds of projects developing into coursework is to allow students to develop their own technologies using different Makerspace tools. While I found electronics to be beyond my day-to-day comprehension level, 3D printing is easy (although troublesome at times getting all the settings right), and anyone could do it with just a few hours of training. Incorporating these technologies into humanities work allows for cross-disciplinary conversations between the humanities and the sciences and also questions whether citizen science and a practice-based approach to GSWS and American Studies could be useful for developing new tools for disseminating information, shifting ideologies, and creating cultural changes that aren't loaded with the sometimes impenetrable walls of the academy.