Inaugural 'maker' summit attendees rethink modern higher education

October 24, 2014

The Maker Movement, a resurgence of hands-on learning with a modern-day, technological twist, is gaining ground in America. Seeded in the DIY community, it is growing from a renewed desire to not only create things, but to solve real-world problems and even make a living. Can it reinvigorate the nation’s economy, and what does it mean for how we educate our children?

Hundreds of people from across the country gathered recently at ASU’s Chandler Innovation Center to discuss these questions. Hosted by ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship + Innovation, the inaugural Higher Education Maker Summit brought together teachers and students, engineers and artists, entrepreneurs and policymakers to discuss how education can be more hands-on and collaborative, all the way from preschool to college and beyond. Kai Kight Download Full Image

ASU is one of the signature universities that sent a letter to President Obama last summer committed to fostering the next generation of "makers." The university was already a leader in this area with maker spaces at the Polytechnic and Tempe campuses, and has since built the Chandler Innovation Center and partnered to bring TechShop there.

“The Maker Movement in education is about project-based learning. This is about self-directed, self-guided learning for fun and on purpose to get a project done, as opposed to doing a contrived project in class because a teacher told you to,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice president and university dean for entrepreneurship and innovation. “We see a rebirth of people’s interest in making things with their own hands, and not just solving things and doing everything on a computer. The real question is how can we use that where there is a clear, compelling drive of kids of all ages, including the young at heart, to learn not just by being taught from a book.”

A major misconception about making in higher education is that it only fits in certain majors, the most obvious being engineering. Yet the concepts for many new products or technologies start in the minds of many, for example people who work in health care, journalism, space science or the arts. Students often don’t have an opportunity to execute their ideas in a tangible way, and they don’t have the tools readily available to create or build things.

Creating maker spaces is one of the key elements of a maker culture discussed at the summit. ASU is the first university in the country to partner with TechShop, a membership-based fabrication studio where anyone aged 16 years or older, with proper training, can use the tools and work on their projects. This fall, ASU extended free memberships to any full-time ASU student, a program that has led to more than 400 student memberships in less than two months.

“People can have the same access to the tools Ford and Edison had, and Dean Kamen has now,” said Mark Hatch, CEO and co-founder of TechShop. “What we are seeing in these spaces is an amazing mix of people from different disciplines working together and being supported. That’s magical, and the sky is the limit on what you can make.”

Hatch said that making things is fundamental to what it means to be human, and he predicts that the Maker Movement is going to be bigger than the Internet “because we live in a physical space, not a virtual space.

“Software is making it easier to make physical objects that are performing at levels never before imaged. So it’s tapping into an old desire to make things with new tools that make it possible to make things that just 20 years ago were hard to imagine,” he said.

But can makers drive the U.S. economy? No doubt. According to Hatch, the three San Francisco area TechShops members have created $12 billion in incremental shareholder value, 2,000 jobs and $200 million in annual salaries. Literally, the state of California is pulling in more money on an annual basis from taxes from jobs created from maker spaces, he said, than was spent in building the three locations.

Micah Lande, assistant professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering was one of the presenters at the summit. Lande, who founded the first Maker Corps site in Arizona, is an investigator on two National Science Foundation-funded projects with Polytechnic School colleague Shawn Jordan looking at young makers and their futures as engineers.

“When I think about making, to me, it comes down to practical ingenuity and how do you support that in an individual and in a student, and then prepare them for what’s next,” Lande said. “I have a lot of engineering students, and I don’t feel I’m training them for their first job. I’m helping them develop as a whole person and be able to follow whatever their interests are after they graduate.”

Sharon Keeler

ASU names scholar, innovator O'Donnell as university librarian

October 27, 2014

Libraries have always bridged past and present, preserving and innovating. To lead ASU’s libraries in a transformative time, Arizona State University has today named James J. O’Donnell, former Georgetown provost, classicist and pioneer in emerging digital technologies, to the post of university librarian.

O’Donnell will fill the position vacated by Sherrie Schmidt, who retired as university librarian on June 30, after 20 years of leadership. O’Donnell will also be a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His appointment takes effect Feb. 3, 2015. James J. O'Donnell, university librarian Download Full Image

The digital age has radically altered the world of libraries. O’Donnell has written that the librarian of the future will combine the skills of James Fenimore Cooper’s “pathfinder” with those of a Jedi knight. Under O’Donnell’s leadership, ASU will build collections and manage dynamic spaces, focusing especially on connecting students and scholars with the best information resources in the most effective way.

“Our university librarian is a key to advancing ASU’s complementary goals of learning and discovery,” said Robert E. Page, Jr., university provost. “Our libraries, a critical repository of archival knowledge, are a means through which students learn how they can find information, discern quality sources and engage with information to build new ideas. Dr. O’Donnell will be central in developing our libraries’ services and collections for the rapidly changing world of information.”

ASU’s libraries include Hayden Library, Noble Science and Engineering Library, the Architecture and Environmental Design Library and Music Library on the Tempe campus, the Fletcher Library on West campus, as well as libraries on the Polytechnic and downtown Phoenix campuses – but their digital front door can be found anywhere, 24/7.

“Institutions whose libraries see beyond themselves will be immensely the stronger for it,” O’Donnell said. “We need to cherish, care for and make alive and accessible all that we've inherited, as well as stimulate, animate and support the adventures of students, researchers and faculty working to add to or transcend that inheritance.”

O’Donnell received his bachelor of arts degree at Princeton and doctorate from Yale. He served as provost and professor of classics at Georgetown University for a decade, after a career at Bryn Mawr, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and served as president of the American Philological Association. He now chairs the board of directors of the American Council of Learned Societies. He was a pioneer in the scholarly study of late antiquity, including “Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace” (1998), “Augustine: A New Biography” (2005), and “The Ruin of the Roman Empire” (2008). His new book, “Pagans,” will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.

O’Donnell has also been engaged in digital innovation for almost 25 years, starting with the establishment of the oldest online open access journal in the humanities, “Bryn Mawr Classical Review.” He taught the first MOOC in 1994, introducing 500 students around the world to the work and thought of St. Augustine. He served from 1996-2002 as the chief information officer of the University of Pennsylvania.

While at Georgetown, O’Donnell led planning for new buildings for the business school and the natural sciences, and advanced faculty excellence while leading establishment of two new campuses: one in Doha in the state of Qatar, the other called "Georgetown Downtown," a new home for Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies for a rapidly growing population of D.C. non-traditional learners. In 2001, O'Donnell led a National Academy expert study about Library of Congress futures, and in 2009 he served on a national committee charged to make recommendations to the House of Representatives Science Committee about expanding public access to federally funded research.

“Jim O'Donnell is both a brilliant scholar and a visionary about the future of information. He knows how to put together leadership teams, even as he thinks creatively about the nature of knowledge for students, researchers and the community,” said George Justice, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and chair of the search committee. “We are fortunate to have such an exceptional individual, one who understands books, including the old and rare in our special collections, but also the changing nature of information in the present day and in our digital future.”

“The future of libraries is now ours for the making,” agreed O’Donnell. “ASU is a place where exciting futures are made all the time, and I’m delighted to be joining this extraordinary community.”

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost