Educating a Maker: The Berkeley Perspective

Educating a Maker: The Berkeley Perspective

Forbes contributor Rakesh Sharma published a piece on the CITRIS Invention Lab‘s Critical Making and Interactive Device Design courses at UC Berkeley.

Forbes: There is a different sort of Maker being shaped at UC Berkeley.

“The question is no longer: can we make it (a product)?” says Dr. Bjoern Hartmann, assistant professor at the University and instructor for the Interactive Device Design class. “Instead, it has changed to what can we make that’s worthwhile?”

The Interactive Device Design class is part of two classes (the other one is Critical Making) to fashion student Makers at the University. The classes introduce students to Maker tools and teach them to critically evaluate the Maker culture.

To do this, they bridge gaps in existing pedagogy practice.

Bridging Gaps In Pedagogy

The first gap is the one between theory and practice.

While Critical Making incorporates equal amounts of instruction and practice, the Interactive Device Design class is focused on making products from an “initial napkin sketch to working prototype.”

The latter class consists of two parts: the first part familiarizes students with tools of the Maker revolution, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, and the second part transforms student ideas to finished products.

Connected devices are encouraged because they teach students to think about design in unconventional terms. Hartmann provides the example of sparkplugs, which  function in isolation within a machine. “The design constraints are to make it robust,” says Hartmann. However, such products are the exception rather than the norm in an increasingly connected society, where hardware appliances are increasingly controlled by devices such as smartphones.

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