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College of Education

WyoMakers brings makerspace movement, creative learning and design to UW, Wyoming


New cross-generational and interdisciplinary collaborative opportunities to engage students of all ages in creative projects drawing on design and problem solving skills launched at the UW College of Education with the opening of WyoMaker

WyoMakers, part of the global maker movement, provides a variety of tools, software, and equipment - including workstations and a 3D printer - to structure activities that foster engagement in hands-on learning activities for students of all ages.

With the launch of WyoMakers comes virtually endless potential for creating new avenues to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and design concepts, according to Tonia Dousay, assistant professor of professional studies, program founder.

Word spread quickly after its launch in October 2014, with interest high across campus and in the community.

Already several projects are underway, including a design elective offered to students in the UW Lab School. Twelve Eleven Lab School students will partner undergraduates enrolled in a family and consumer science textiles course to create garments that the program participants will wear in the department’s annual fashion show. Lab School students will design the patterns for the fabrics. Textiles course students will print the fabrics and work with their younger partners to design the clothing that will be modeled at the show.

At the center of the learning experience for the Lab School students will application of core academic skills.

“They’re going to be thinking about math and science concepts without realizing it,” Dousay says.

A similar hands-on approach lies at the center of another early WyoMakers project, led by Dousay and Laramie Junior High School teacher Heath Brown. Students in Brown’s engineering elective course will design boats using conventional materials (e.g., cardboard and foil). They will then come to campus, to create prototypes on the WyoMakers 3D printer and test performance under different circumstances. Student designers will use what they learn to adjust their original designs based on what they learn from the prototype test

“They’re getting this applied, hands-on piece of their math and science, and they’re having fun,” Dousay says of the LJHS project. “At the end, their teacher can help them with connecting the dots with what they did to their other subjects.”’

WyoMakers offers myriad opportunities for College of Education students and faculty as well. Makerspace concepts will dovetail with existing hands-on design projects in Dousay’s “Teaching with Technology” courses. Graduate students will be involved in supporting WyoMakers projects, including documenting and sharing activity details and research.

The existence of WyoMakers also introduces new space for College of Education faculty – especially those who teach content methods courses in the teacher education program – to explore new applications and activities that they in turn can introduce to students.

Sharing knowledge will be a core function of the WyoMakers team. Graduate students and other participants will document each activity - including capture lesson plan steps, examples, and photo/video evidence – for sharing on the Wyoming Scholars Repository, an open-source clearinghouse managed by the UW Libraries. Teachers will be able to access those plans for use in their own classrooms.

Dousay is using proceeds from her two-year Mary Ellbogen Garland Early Career Fellowship to provide start-up funding for the WyoMakers project.

“None of this would be possible without the fellowship,” she says. The Garland Fellowship allows her to demonstrate WyoMakers’ impact that, in turn, increases the potential to obtain larger grants to sustain and expand the project in the future.

Creating a makerspace at UW wasn’t an original career goal for Dousay, but the perfect fit to her design background and career direction made establishing WyoMakers a logical choice.

“That’s the centerpiece,” she says of the makerspace concept and its fit to her professional goals. “You’re problem solving and you’re designing. I thought, ‘okay, this is where my work needs to be.’”
 
On Dousay’s short-term agenda is promoting WyoMakers across campus and in K-12 schools across Wyoming. Toward those ends, she plans to spotlight projects by her “Teaching with Technology” students at a makerspace makerfaire in Teton County later this year. She also will travel to Jackson in March, to discuss robotics and programming in the classroom, at a UW-sponsored Saturday University event.

What is the full potential of WyoMakers? Dousay describes it as virtually limitless.

“We have a facility that has equipment and software and tools – and it’s just a matter of what can you envision with this space?”

Student Pattern Designers

Student Pattern Designers
Assistant Professor of Professional Studies Tonia Dousay (far left) discusses pattern and design concepts with students enrolled in a design elective course in the UW Lab School. Twelve middle school students will design original patterns using makerspace processes and tools. They then will team up with students in Erin Irick's "Drafting and Flat Pattern Design" course to create printed fabrics featuring their designs. Irick's students will then design and construct clothing for themselves and their Lab School partners, using the fabric.

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