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They're makers. And their movement is gaining momentum.
President Barack Obama was intrigued by the maker movement from the moment 14-year-old Joey Hudy sent a marshmallow hurtling through the State Dining Room at the White House Science Fair. After Hudy's successful demonstration of the marshmallow cannon he'd made, he handed the President a business card reading, "Don't be bored, make something."
The saying became a rallying cry for the President's efforts to grow a generation of students who are "makers of things, not just consumers of things," the White House said.
Part of that growth is today's first-ever White House Maker Faire — and two Bucknell University faculty members will be there.
University Dean of Engineering Keith Buffinton and Associate Dean of Engineering Margot Vigeant were invited to attend the event, part of a nationwide series of DIY festivals produced by the publishers of MAKE magazine.
"I am honored to be invited, along with Margot, to represent Bucknell in Washington, D.C.," said Buffinton. "Through the efforts of many people across campus, Bucknell is clearly becoming recognized as a leader in promoting the maker culture and in offering maker opportunities to our students."
"This is a fantastic opportunity," agreed Vigeant. "It's terrific that the White House recognizes the creative and economic impact that the maker movement is having."
Day of Making
The maker movement represents a technology-based extension of the DIY culture, and includes a growing, grassroots community of makers. They can be anything — hobbyists, enthusiasts, students or professors. Some makers become entrepreneurs; others create for the sheer joy and challenge of making something new.
To further celebrate the maker movement, President Obama officially proclaimed June 18, 2014, as a national Day of Making. Along with more than 150 colleges and universities across the country, Bucknell will participate online using #NationofMakers and #BucknellMakers. The University also launched a Bucknell Makers micro-site to coincide with the event.
Makers in the Bucknell community are finding more support and resources on campus than ever before.
"When asked what differentiates a student's experiences at Bucknell, the opportunity provided by our residential environment for students to pursue their own projects and passions — such as in one of our maker spaces on campus — is one of the items at the top of my list," said Buffinton.
Bucknell's expanding maker space network includes the Mooney Lab, which is open to all safety-trained students, faculty and staff and includes a 3-D printer and other standard tools, and the Art Barn sculpture studio.
Existing small product prototyping spaces for makers are the Digital Scholarship Center in Bertrand Library and the Small Business Development Center. Two upcoming locations are the electrical engineering maker space (integrated circuits) and the Craft Center.
"Our approach to creating maker spaces on campus is to broaden the capabilities of and access to existing locations," said Vigeant.
Outside the Classroom
Bucknell also cultivates the work of students who have never engaged in making.
"We call this our 'Outside the Classroom' initiative," said Vigeant. "It's deliberately outside the curriculum because we want to cultivate the culture of making and tinkering, and the intrinsic motivation and growth mindset that accompany these activities."
The initiative includes short, free, workshops open to all campus members on particular making skills, held in Maker Spaces and residence halls. A weeklong skill workshop called BFAB will launch in late August.
Another project in the works is the "Nifty Idea Fund," which will help provide financing for Maker projects with prohibitive startup costs.
"In Bucknell maker spaces we want students to be able to work on their own thing, but they don't always have the money for the materials to get started," explained Vigeant. "We created a fund from which students can draw money after writing a proposal."
In a post on the White House blog, the administration said the Maker Faire and Nation of Makers events tie into Obama's broader goal of prompting more students to enter STEM fields.
While the University certainly supports that goal, Vigeant noted that at Bucknell, making extends far beyond the science quad. It's a culture in which all Bucknellians can participate.
"The plus that comes from makers and making is it isn't an exclusively STEM domain," said Vigeant. "Sure, it often uses cutting-edge technologies — but it's for an often creative, personal and/or beautiful end."