Makerspace workshop to guide school’s expansion of design facilities

Simply put, building a makerspace requires a community, some tools, and education.

How it’s accomplished varies, and that’s what the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering will explore Friday, Dec. 11, in a daylong Design, Build and Test (DEBUT) Makerspace Planning Workshop. The workshop is open to the public but attendance is limited. Go here to register.

Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community and education that enabling people to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. They can take the form of for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, or organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools or universities. Whatever form they take, makerspaces represent the democratization of design, engineering, fabrication and education.


“The school is preparing for a major expansion of makerspaces to support innovation by Vanderbilt students and faculty, as well as for individuals in Nashville and the surrounding region,” said Philippe Fauchet, dean of the School of Engineering. “This workshop will focus on best practices for academic makerspaces, partnerships, and building a maker ecosystem that serves a broader community.”

The workshop sessions will be led by people already involved in existing makerspaces at other universities and in industries in Nashville and Tennessee. The workshop is limited to 120 people and will run from 8:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.


Keynote speakers include Maria Oden, director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University; Yiaway Yeh, Google Fiber Expansion Lead, New Initiatives; and Marcus Whitney, president of Jumpstart Foundry in Nashville.

Oden is professor in the practice of engineering education and she has more than 15 years of combined academic, research, clinical experience in biomedical engineering. Oden’s year-long bioengineering design course, focused on presenting students with opportunities to develop novel technologies, is a requirement for students in Beyond Traditional Borders, an engineering design initiative for health innovations in resource-poor communities. The OEDK is a 20,000-square-foot space where Rice engineering undergraduates working in interdisciplinary teams design and prototype technologies as part of their education.


Yeh is a former mayor of Palo Alto, Calif., and former co-chief innovation officer of Nashville and Davidson County Metro Government. Yey has over a decade of experience in municipal operations, financial management, performance auditing, and consulting across several U.S. metropolitan regions. Prior to his career in local government, Yiaway was a banker with Morgan Stanley and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso.

Whitney is the founder of Jumpstart, a startup accelerator, and a “serial entrepreneur.” He has been involved in the creation of almost 60 businesses over the last five years. Currently, he also is CEO and founder of The Unlikely Company. Previously, he was the director of technology at Emma, Inc. Whitney established his role in the Nashville technology community as a co-founder of Moontoast, a social media advertising company now called Spendsetter.


Other workshop participants include David MacNair, Georgia Tech Invention Studio; Chris Lee, CTO of Anode and co-chair of Make Nashville; Ryan Wrenn, CTO of Artiphon; Ryan Schemmel, director of operations, Nashville’s Fort Houston; and Alex Lavidge, GigTank in Chattanooga, as well as 10 other panelists.

“We’re committed to designing Vanderbilt makerspaces that operate in synergy, not competition, with the exciting makerspace activities in Nashville,” said Fauchet, who led a half-day meeting in June to gather information about existing local makerspaces. That meeting led to the formation of an 11-member steering committee, three focused working groups: education, entrepreneurship and community, and to the creation of the DEBUT Makerspace Workshop.

Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering