Make Cool Stuff


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As seen at CAA Chicago 2104 on the Foundations in Art: Theory and Education Panel: A Hybrid Practice: Getting Rid of Digital Media Courses


The Make Cool Stuff Lab: An inquiry-based approach to learning and making with creative technologies

The inevitable conflict of teaching isolated studio courses in any medium, traditional or emerging, is the implication that the medium is of primary concern to the maker. Most contemporary practices span several media easily, and without pause, which stands in stark contrast to most foundation year curriculum. Makerspaces or inquiry-based learning labs are natural environments for learners to explore ideas regardless of their media affiliation.

Makerspaces are playgrounds for adult learners, and the conceit of these spaces is simple: put cool stuff in a communal space and make things. Then talk about it. Repeat. Students need dedicated spaces to engage with technologies that develop and challenge their interests; they need a strategies for for contextualizing breadth and practicing depth of study no matter what it is they’re trying to learn.

In inquiry-based learning, the media/tools/techniques become of secondary importance to the primary concerns of ideation, exploration, risk and failure. My not so radical proposal is to employ a system of learning that reflects and supports the reality of a contemporary practice; one in which the drive to create and express is the central motivation and focus.

Some makers draw pictures, build buildings and weave cloth. Some creatives sing opera, kern letters or even splice dna. That impassioned diversity of thought is what we’re all looking for in our students, and it’s the kind of curiosity that develops naturally in a learning lab. Learning in a makerspace is not interdisciplinary learning, it’s learning free from disciplines, and frankly, it’s about time.

TLDR: Computer labs and traditional classrooms are old and busted. Makerspaces are the new hotness.

What's in our lab? 

  • Requisite iMacs (we are getting some PC's)
  • 3d prototyping Center
  • Animation+ Documentation Center
    • Lagre format scanner
    • copy stands and lights
    • various lightbulbs/gels
    • lightboxes
    • Software: Dragon Frame
  • Digital Cutting Center
  • Sewing Center
  • Clean Cutting Center
    • Large format Rotatrim
    • Cutting mats
    • Safety Rulers
    • Knives and blades
  • Storage Cabinet of Dreams
    • Plotting pens (glitter!!)
    • x-acto knives
    • scissors
    • tape runners
    • adhesives
    • soldering iron and solder
    • toolbox (basic handyman special)
    • gopro Cameras
    • wacom tablets and pens
    • lightboxes
    • headphones
    • dslr cameras
    • cheap point and shoot cameras
    • extra batteries and memory cards
    • zoom audio recorders
    • vinyl supplies
    • abs and pal plastic filament
    • button maker and supplies
    • paper punches
    • perforating tools

  • Gathering Space
    • large conference style table for spreading out or gathering around
  • JOY! It's fun in there. That's kind of the most important thing. Right?