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Portland Made: Portland Community College’s Makerspace

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

 

Photo credit: pcc.edu

Portland Community College is only one of very few community colleges in the United States that offers a fully equipped, full-spectrum education and training in digitally-based “additive manufacturing.” This umbrella term covers nearly forty different digitally based manufacture processes, including 3D Printing.  Students receive college credit, experience and skills that enable them to be well qualified to enter the world of manufacturing at its most modern and advanced level. Businesses report back that graduates of this program are walking into interviews with a markedly “higher skillset” because of their knowledge of not only machine manufacturing but also its digital counterpart, says Instructor Patrick Kraft. Students are provided with “real life” projects, says Kraft, frequently partnering with other college departments – like Theater, Science and Foreign Language – on building projects.

The Business of Making Dreams Real

MakerSpace was created in 2006 with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation. It is a laboratory where students can work on coursework, but is also for making things from their own designs. This ability to experiment on small projects and to prototype ideas freely enables students to “fail forward versus fail backward,” says Instructor Gregg Meyer. In addition, because MakerSpace is an open drop-in lab, there is plenty of opportunity for brainstorming and peer mentoring. The tag line for MakerSpace is “Design. Make. Play.”  Having fun as a motivator, rather than a test, is proving to supply students with a fast learning curve.

“We’re in the business of making dreams real,” says Meyer. They are expanding this idea into high schools, especially those that don’t teach mechanics but have technical labs and programs. Students are able to get dual credits – meeting their high school graduating requirements and giving them college credits also. They have put on intensive one-day workshops specifically for high school girls, exposing them to several additive-manufacturing processes; at the end of the day each girl is able to leave with a tangible object they have created themselves. This has proved to be incredibly encouraging and empowering, as girls learn that they can be successful in a field that has been largely male-dominated. 

Future Plans

Kraft and Meyer have enthusiastic plans for the future, for extending the reach of programs like MakerSpace. They would like to eventually be able to offer Small Business Development to students who want to be independent manufacturers. They could get a degree while developing and prototyping their design/manufacturing idea; learn how to create a business plan, obtain a provisional patent for their design and explore options for revenue generation. By graduation, they will not only have access to a career, but also potentially a small business of their own.

They would also like to eventually create an “Exploring Engineering” class into high schools by developing a teacher training and certification program. The idea would be to then supply the teachers with a “maker cart” of supplies, including a 3D printer to enable real life, hands-on learning for high school students. 

But why stop there?  Kraft and Meyer are pondering the question, “how do you get this down to the first, second or third grade?” Stay tuned. The future has just begun.

Kelley Roy is the founder of ADX, a 14,000 square foot Makerspace where artists and designers work along side each other to prototype and launch new product lines. ADX is also open to the general public and teaches people of all ages how to make. And if you don't want to do it yourself, you can hire ADX to make it for you. For more information check out adxportland.com

Portland Made is a digital storytelling platform and advocacy center for Portland's Maker Movement. We do 2 features a month on Portland Makers; connect makers with more local, national and international markets; connect makers with local professional and manufacturing resources; advocate for makers with politicians at all levels of government; work with PSU on an annual survey that captures the economic power of the Maker Movement; help makers find real estate; and promote Portland makers with local and national media.

 

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