Cornell Maker Club gets a new home
In the three years that the Cornell Maker Club has existed, it has amassed a collection of useful tools and equipment, including a 3-D printer, a soldering station, a function generator, an oscilloscope, assorted hand tools and power tools and a small library of technical manuals and books. It has greatly increased the number of people participating in club activities, and has secured official status as a student-run club. The only thing it had been lacking, until now, is a permanent home.
ECE Director Clif Pollock worked with the group during the 2014-15 academic year to secure permanent space in Phillips Hall. “This new room is something we really needed,” says Club President Alex Jaus ’15. “Our original space in 211 Phillips got pretty cramped. If we wanted to cut a large piece of plywood, we had to do it at somebody’s house because there was no space in the room.”
The new space, which recently underwent a major renovation to make it better suited to the needs of the club, is much larger than the old space. “Clif Pollock and ECE have been very supportive of the club ever since day one,” says Jaus. The student that founded the Cornell Maker Club, Hanna Lin M.Eng ’14, was a biological engineer, but much of her work relied on electronics. She spent a lot of time in Phillips Hall and when she started the club, ECE Senior Lecturer Bruce Land agreed to be the faculty advisor.
Land has shown a deep commitment to hands-on projects in his own teaching and advising, and he believes in the mission of the Maker Club. “Projects are an essential part of engineering education, and they help the students understand why they are taking all the theory courses,” says Land. “The Maker Club is a social context for people to share ideas and techniques in a free-form way that is hard to provide in a class setting.”
Jaus and the current members of the Maker Club have a vision for the group: they want it to be a place where people of all levels of ability can come and everyone can learn. “People should not feel embarrassed about not knowing how to do something,” says Jaus. “We want to be a place where people can come and learn whatever it is they need to learn to get better at the skills their projects demand. People don’t get grades for coming to Maker Club and they certainly don’t get paid. They come for the joy of making things and learning.”
The learning is not solely technical. Jaus highlights the many non-technical skills that grow through project work and membership in a club. “People learn communication and leadership skills through their interactions in the club,” says Jaus. “We also hope they’ll learn from their failures. Projects are an iterative process and if people give up as soon as they fail, they don’t learn. We want to be a safe place to fail.”
The safe place to fail (as well as succeed) will soon be open for business. The timing is good, because they’ve been busy recruiting new members at ClubFest, as well as raising excitement through their first annual Maker Workshop, which was held on Sept. 19. Membership in the Cornell Maker Club is free and interested students can join any time throughout the year. “A lot of our most active members have come to us on their own, independent of ClubFest,” says Jaus. “They come because they have a need to learn something. We do some recruiting, but often it works the other way around—people come looking for us because we have something to offer them.”
If you are interested in Maker Club, contact Alex Jaus at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cornellmakers.wordpress.com for more information.
— Chris Dawson