2017 UW Maker Summit

A variety of events in 2017 UW Maker Summit at UW Area 01 on April 22nd, 2017.

On Saturday, the second annual UW Maker Summit brought together a blend of art and technology as it showcased student talent on a day created to celebrate the makers among the university’s student body.

Put on by Housing & Food Services and the CoMotion makerspace, the summit allowed students to submit their projects before a panel of judges and gave spectators a chance to view work created by the UW community.

The all-day event began at 11 a.m. with keynote speaker Beth Kolko, Ph.D., who gave a 40-minute talk on her experience with makerspaces as they emerged in the early 2000s. A professor in the UW human centered design and engineering (HCDE) department, Kolko did not have a background in engineering, but in English. Her talk centered on how she fell in love and immersed herself in engineering outside of the formal structure of academia. 

“I think making is the way that we change the world,” she said, stressing the importance of furthering engineering literacy in the broader community. Engineers are makers, and in turn, makers are engineers even when they haven’t had traditional instruction.

The next few hours of the summit consisted of open house-style workshops, ranging from 3D-printing basics to virtual reality art classes, as well as various talks and short film viewings. The Kentridge High School robotics team was in attendance with its robots on display.

The event was split between two UW spaces, Area 01, the student recreational and creative space underneath Maple Hall, and CoMotion’s makerspace in Fluke Hall. Each project was given its own display area.

Drew Zimmerman, residence education specialist for West Campus Operations and one of the main Maker Summit organizers, was enthusiastic about the event. 

“We’re providing a forum for students to celebrate their creativity in a space that previously wasn’t there,” he said. “For me that’s probably the most exciting part. It’s an opportunity for students to showcase their projects to other individuals.”

Though competing with other scheduled campus events, including the second day of Engineering Discovery Days, the Maker Summit generated a decent turnout, with 110 submissions in categories ranging from Gizmos to Short Films to Ceramic & Glass Arts. The award ceremony was sponsored by Amazon Catalyst, with each category winner receiving an Amazon gift card. UW students received $500 and community members were awarded $200.

“It’s cool for us to see what other people are up to outside our program,” said John Luetke, an HCDE graduate student presenting a project with his three teammates. “We’ve been in a graduate [student] bubble.” 

Part of the Gizmos category for graduate students, the team’s submission was their recent capstone project, a robot named SIM that can interpret and respond to facial expressions. When asked about their favorite aspects of being makers, the response was unanimous.

“Building things,” Luetke said. 

“Getting our hands dirty,” added Dorothy Wong, one of SIM’s co-creators.

The two, along with teammates Nikhil Venkatesh and Sahil Anand, ended up taking first prize in their category at the final banquet, where a total of 15 awards were distributed.

“There’s also a very humanistic side to it, understanding who we’re building for and what they need, and then incorporating that into a product,” Wong said.

The Maker Summit was open to students of all majors and interests, encouraging engagement with innovation on the UW campus, something Kolko pushed.

“The making community has biggest chance for societal change,” Kolko said. 

With such well-equipped makerspaces on the UW campus, students have more opportunities than ever to enact that change.


Reach writer Maya Kanga at news@dailyuw.comTwitter: @mayakanga

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