Letter to the Editor: A Reed Makerspace

Submitted on 4 December 2019

Letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Quest or the Editorial Board.

Modern academics are underrepresenting a significant part of the intellectual creativity that lives in all of us. The broadcasting of information at lectures, or in the classroom, makes students passive recipients of knowledge. We sit, listen, take notes, go home, learn what we didn’t understand, and regurgitate our newfound knowledge in the predetermined manner set for us. 

Yet students may find themselves in a situation of curiosity about a subject matter that really excites them.  To some, you may mull over a particularly intriguing concept that sets an idea in motion, and pushes you to reach the top of the hill until the whole view can be seen. Yet, to undergo this journey of exploration, we need intellectual space, and this motion can be stunted by the predetermined problems and questions we are asked to solve on a daily basis. This preordered education can confine creativity and individualism. 

It promotes becoming someone who is good at solving other people’s problems, not being active constructors of our own vision. If we follow this logic, it seems to me that undergraduate academics are good at teaching students how to be employees, not necessarily how to be leading innovators. 

That being said, the problems we are asked to solve shouldn’t be devalued, it just can’t be the whole picture. Our school should promote all forms of innovation, and yet Reed is currently missing such a huge piece. 

 What about the active constructors? What about the students that image something more than reading, and contemplating or solving, and proving… where do the students go who want to create? 

Reed is lacking a space for the upcoming generation of inventors to construct the ideas that could potentially change the world. This may sound like a romanticized version of start-up culture, but a makerspace is a lot more than just technology. It supports the pedagogy of the maker movement, which is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers, and tinkerers. That could be the discovery of a life-long hobby, or the eventual use of your tools and creativity to start a business. 

Makers promote self-reliance and combine it with design thinking, open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful technologies. A makerspace can provide the tools for anyone to move away from being a passive users to an active constructor. It’s a recreational and professional playground that gives you the resources to make/tinker/design/hack every idea you think is worthwhile. 

I believe the rigorously theoretical academics of Reed would be coupled well with a space to bring ideas into fruition. From speaking with various individuals, it seems that the maker movement is strong amongst the student population, and has been trying to set a spot for over 25 years. There has been attempts to create clubs (robotics club and rocket club) and even a FabLab. The key factor that was missing from these coalitions was student autonomy. The clubs never had a space they could access 24 hours a day to work on their projects and the FabLab was run by a paid mentor, hired by the school to teach the students about various softwares. 

I am trying to develop a makerspace on campus that’s 100% student run with 24 hour access. This gives students total autonomy to run and develop a function space. I know that student run programs can excel. I have had few better moments than working on a project with friends having satisfied an idea from start to finish. When freedom of innovation and expression is made accessible, amazing things can happen.  

Thus, this is me reaching out to all the makers at Reed — and all the ones that are interested but maybe don’t know where to begin. I want to hear all your ideas. If you are interested in creating your own metal jewelry, building a high altitude balloon, sewing your own t-shirt, programming a self watering pot, or learning how to use a laser cutter, the Reed makerspace can be the home for your innovation. 

If I have successfully sparked intrigue in you, please email testewart@reed.edu and I will put you on the mailing list! 

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3 years ago

neoliberal shill


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