The How Now Wildcats Project - The Makerspace as a Learing Tool

Monday, June 5, 2017


Ian Grant

Through a VentureWell faculty grant received in 2016, UNHInnovation was offering a limited number of $500 sub-awards for materials and supplies that allowed faculty from across the university to integrate the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter) Makerspace into their course programming.

This spring, UNH Lecturer Molly Campbell and Professor Dennis Britton applied for and received one of the faculty sub-awards and designed a collaborative project for their classes; English 502: Professional and Technical Writing and English 657: Shakespeare, respectively. They were inspired by COLA Dean Heidi Bostic’s request that faculty capitalize on the excitement surrounding the rebuilding of Hamilton-Smith Hall, which is home to the English Department.

The ultimate aim of the seven-week project, called “How Now Wildcats,” was to showcase student work and increase interaction, interest, and visibility for English Department majors, minors, and classes. Students in Britton’s Shakespeare class were asked to locate favorite quotes and Shakespearean imagery that spoke to their lives as college students at UNH. Those students were then paired with groups of students from Campbell’s Technical Writing class to explain why they chose the texts and describe their interpretations. The Technical Writing student groups had to write and submit a design proposal for a promotional product, art piece, or wall display featuring one of the meaningful Shakespearian quotes, to be used in conjunction with the Hamilton-Smith grand opening.

The design proposals had to include a complete plan of action detailing specifics about the needs of the “audience,” the design concept, procedures for production, assembly instructions, and a bill of materials. The proposal also had to include a detailed estimate and timeline. Once the design proposals were “accepted,” the students built prototypes of their products or display pieces at the Makerspace using equipment and resources like 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters, various power tools, and design software. Any materials the students needed at the Makerspace, like the PLA filament for the 3D printers or acrylic and balsa wood sheets for the laser cutter, were furnished through the VentureWell-funded faculty grant that Campbell and Britton received.

The Makerspace is run by student volunteers who are part of the maker community at UNH. Volunteer mentors hold open hours during the academic year to provide assistance to users, and to ensure the safety of equipment and personnel. Campbell’s students worked with the Makerspace mentors during their open hours to learn about the capabilities of the equipment and how to safely use it to build their projects.

At the end of the project, Campbell organized a showcase at the MUB where the Technical Writing student teams displayed their final projects and talked to visitors about their experience collaborating with the students in the Shakespeare class and working in the Makerspace on their designs. The prototypes on display were as diverse as the students’ backgrounds and included 3D printed fidget spinners, vinyl stickers featuring a student-designed Hamilton-Smith Hall logo, laser engraved wooden wall art, and acrylic plaques. The students were excited to share their design proposals and engage with the many attendees, including Dean Bostic, who stopped by to see the results of the project.

We are thrilled that Campbell and Britton applied for funding and chose to incorporate the Makerspace into their curriculum. A major goal of the ECenter is to not only encourage entrepreneurial activity, but interdisciplinary collaboration and peer-to-peer learning as well. It’s exciting to see that taking shape more and more around campus and we hope that the success of the How Now Wildcats project will inspire other faculty to apply for the funding while it’s available and take advantage of the Makerspace as a learning tool.

Ian Grant, Director