WPI Joins The White House "Nation of Makers" Initiative

June 16, 2015

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was one of 70 universities and colleges nationwide to respond to President Barack Obama’s June 2014 call for a "nation of makers"—an initiative to develop a workforce oriented toward innovation, invention, design, and manufacturing.

The education component of President Obama’s push is known as the MakeSchools Alliance. It asks institutions of higher education—and others—to increase efforts to create a "maker culture" on college campuses. This includes increasing efforts to provide students with the tools they need—such as spaces, projects, and mentors—to engage in hands-on making activities and boost their interest and persistence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Earlier this week, on the anniversary of the President’s call, the White House released the State of Making in Higher Education, an analysis of the nation's institutional perspectives on and support for the maker movement. The report, which was prepared by a consortium of schools, including WPI, highlights the approaches to education, community engagement, and campus resources being explored on American campuses; it also provides recommendations and next step guidance for the community around higher education. In addition to creating more maker space on campus, WPI will leverage its considerable strength in project-based learning in STEM fields.
"As a member of the MakeSchools Alliance, WPI is committed to nurturing this maker culture and ensuring that young people across the country have access to the facilities, programs, and tools that will allow them to be engaged in some extraordinary projects," wrote WPI President Laurie A. Leshin in a letter to President Obama (see page 85). "As one visible sign of our commitment, WPI is investing in critical makerspaces as we plan to build a state-of-the-art facility on campus that will focus on collaborative learning and transformative projects. The innovation studio will have a lasting impact on generations of incoming WPI students and on our campus."

In her letter to President Obama, Leshin also pointed out WPI's 40-year history of innovative project-based learning, and highlighted recent groundbreaking projects that have had a direct impact on practical challenges facing communities across the globe.

"Maker culture at WPI is defined by an intellectual curiosity, a passion to master interdisciplinary skills, and the tenacity to follow through to the end," said Leshin. "WPI makers come from a variety of backgrounds with different experiences and have the goal to acquire and refine skills to encourage positive change around the world. The WPI maker culture is a melting pot of disciplines and the culture flourishes at this intersection of various fields. WPI makers are curious, collaborative, and creative in pursuing solutions to hard problems with societal impact."

Read more about how WPI fosters a maker culture on campus and throughout its community of students, faculty members, and partners. A list of other institutions involved, and details on their efforts, is available here.

President Obama also proclaimed June 12-18 the National Week of Making, which coincided with a National Maker Faire,  held in Washington, D.C., June 12-13 on the University of the District of Columbia campus and organized by a broad range of national and local organizations. WPI Robotics Engineering Program participated in the Maker Faire, displaying a variety of custom-designed and -built projects and earning an Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon.