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Creativity, Commitment Earn CEAS Staff Member Community Honor

February 14, 2019
Man works with group of high school students in outreach lab
Makerspace Coordinator Tyler Kerr (center) works with high-school students in the UW Student Innovation Center.

As a child, Tyler Kerr was fascinated with learning how technology and gadgets worked. Now as a young professional, he is being recognized for his efforts to share that passion with others.

Kerr, the makerspace coordinator at the University of Wyoming Coe Library Student Innovation Center (SIC), recently was named to the “20 Under 40” list by the Laramie Young Professionals and the Laramie Boomerang.

Born and raised outside Boston, he received a degree in geology from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., in 2011, followed by a master’s degree in geology/paleontology from UW in 2017. For the last two years, he has overseen the makerspace, a central campus hub for students and community members interested in creative, collaborative and innovative projects in the areas of STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a paleontologist, but also had a fascination with gadgets, technology and a knack for creative design work,” he says. “That mixture of science, technology and outreach ultimately led me to the position of makerspace coordinator.”

Previously, he was the outreach coordinator, educator and content creator for UW’s Geological Museum and worked in Coe Library’s digital collections department to scan and digitize the university’s fossil collections.

“At the SIC, I get the best of all three worlds. I’m able to teach people how to use incredible technologies, I get to show makers of all ages the wonderfully diverse multidisciplinary applications of a makerspace, and I get to see creative STEAM projects come to life,” Kerr adds.

According to the organizations, the “20 under 40” awards are for community members less than 40 years of age who “connect with Laramie on a deep level, going beyond professional and personal achievement” and also those “committed to philanthropy, volunteerism, stewardship and a positive future for the community.”

Kerr says STEAM subjects are the cornerstones of hands-on experiential learning. He believes a diverse background in these subjects can help to foster effective critical thinking, science literacy, creativity and innovation. He adds that a well-rounded STEAM education can equip youngsters of any skill level or experience with the knowledge and tools to tackle any number of tough problems.

“There’s something very powerful about developing those creative, hands-on problem-solving skills early in life,” Kerr says.

Both UW and the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) seek to provide outreach opportunities to a wide audience. This includes hosting tours and activities at the Geological Museum, Shell 3-D Visualization Center, Biodiversity Institute or SIC for high school students, UW students or local community groups. Project-based learning opportunities include the Engineering Summer Program, the Native American Summer Institute, the Summer High School Institute, and the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference.

The campus will continue to expand its outreach offerings. Along with the Coe Library location and the CEAS Shop, the newly opened Engineering Education and Research Building will feature an advanced makerspace.

“The outreach opportunities at the university are wide and varied, but share a single uniting factor,” Kerr says. “Each one provides an opportunity for participants to have a more in-depth learning experience. These structured programs can help students and community members learn to effectively work through ideas, draw conclusions, collaborate and discover creative solutions to the challenges they’re trying to solve.”

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