UMass Amherst Among 153 Universities and Colleges Supporting President Obama’s Maker Faire Initiative

June 18, 2014

Contact: Daniel J. Fitzgibbons 413/545-0444

AMHERST, Mass.  – As part of today’s national Day of Making and White House Maker Faire celebrating America’s tradition of invention, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is joining with 152 other colleges and universities across the country to support efforts to promote innovation and ingenuity.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama invited institutions of many kinds to showcase the nation’s vibrant grassroots communities of inventors, tinkerers, and manufacturers that are making the future. According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, public access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, open-source, low-cost microcontrollers, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machine tools, is democratizing the act of making and enabling citizens to build just about anything.

In response, the campus leaders from around the nation signed a letter to the president pledging support for “Making” and committing to adopt one or more of several actions:

  • Allowing students that are applying for admission to submit their Maker portfolio

  • Investing in Makerspaces that are accessible to students across the campus, or serving as “anchor tenants” for commercially-operated Makerspaces

  • Supporting education, outreach and service-learning that is relevant to Making, such as encouraging students to serve as mentors for young Makers

  • Supporting research that advances making technologies and facilitates greater access to making experiences such as the development of new tools for desktop manufacturing

  • Expanding access to university shared facilities and scientific instrumentation to Makers

  • Encouraging students to use their senior design projects to experiment with Making and Maker-preneurship

  • Providing scholarships to students based upon excellence in making

  • Participating in regional efforts to create a vibrant Maker ecosystem that involve companies, investors, skilled volunteers, state and local officials, libraries, museums, schools, after-school programs, labor unions, and community-based organizations

In a separate letter to President Obama, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy expressed his appreciation for the White House initiative and noted several examples of Making at the university:

  • The College of Engineering’s M5Makerspace is a 5,000 square-foot incubator for innovation created in 2008. M5 integrates laboratories, large presentation spaces, small meeting rooms, a recording studio, a machine shop, a 3D printing zone, and a storehouse of free mechanical and electronic parts to support a broad range of individual and collaborative activities, formal and informal instruction, and mentoring. In April, M5 hosted HackUMass, a 24-hour hackathon in which almost 100 undergraduates from across the Northeast created everything from automated parking meter payment systems to portable health monitoring systems inspired by “Star Trek” tricorders.

  • The Altra Industrial Motion Innovation Shop, also in the College of Engineering, contains sophisticated manufacturing equipment such as 3D printers, a water-jet cutter and a computer-controlled four-axis mill. UMass Amherst students use the Innovation Shop extensively for course-based and extracurricular projects, many of which provide services to members of the local community. A team of students from the mechanical and industrial engineering department and College of Nursing worked with a Northampton boy with limited arm mobility and his family to assess his needs and then designed and built a body-powered mechanical arm that allows him to perform independent tasks such as adjusting his glasses, wiping his mouth with a napkin and feeding himself.

  • UMass Amherst is collaborating with the nonprofit organization Amherst Media to create a new town-gown makerspace and host community programs that combine creativity and technology. The makerspace is a joint effort among the colleges of Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Social and Behavioral Sciences, Amherst school system and Amherst Media, andis being launched through a $15,000 grant from a UMass Public Service Endowment Grant.Initially, the objective is to develop and implement a new environmental science afterschool program this fall targeting Amherst middle school youth, centered around the development of open source Do-It-Yourself electronics hardware for science.

“The spirit of this movement comes from a combination of technology and community that is truly reflected on our campus,” wrote Subbaswamy. “We at UMass Amherst are excited about our ongoing contributions to the Maker Movement, which are based on our strong tradition of engaged scholarship.”