Basic Training

Published in MIT News on September 9, 2016, by Meg Murphy, School of Engineering

New MakerLodge program ushers freshmen into the making community.

A sign above the door says it all: MakerLodge. Here MIT students build things: a four-legged robot, a zoetrope, a gumball machine, an alpha particle spark detector. In fact, a group of them helped build the makerspace itself this summer.

MIT’s "Maker Czar" Martin Culpepper says the students, known as MakerLodge mentors, are at the core of any successful makerspace. The key, adds Culpepper, is for safety-minded and skilled students to help build not just the space, but a community.

Now the students have lit up the welcome sign, wired the space for sound, and await the key ingredient: the freshmen. As of Sept. 12, first-year students can sign up to participate in MakerLodge, a grassroots-inspired training program designed to draw them into the making community from the get-go.

On a recent afternoon, Culpepper walked around, greeted students, and showed off a widget that freshmen can make as part of the training program. It’s a hand-held edge-lit sign with planetary gear on the back end. The lettering reads: MakerLodge. Students can personalize it with their names, too.

The sign is the marker of their graduation from the training process, wherein students learn to use introductory maker technology. “This provides freshmen with the intro-level training that helps them prepare to use other spaces on campus,” says Culpepper, who is also a professor of mechanical engineering, and runs the MakerLodge program via MIT’s Project Manus...

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