Group photo of Nicholas Meisel, Matt Parkinson, Aaron Knochel, Tom Lauerman, Marcus Shaffer, and Tim Simpson

Top Row (left to right): Aaron Knochel, Tom Lauerman, & Marcus Shaffer
College of Arts and Architecture

Bottom Row (left to right): Matt Parkinson, Nicholas Meisel, & Tim Simpson
College of Engineering

We are trying something new this year with one of our Fellow’s projects: bringing five faculty members together from multiple disciplines, to design and co-teach a course that deals with creativity, design, and making, tentatively titled “Making for the Masses”. Last year, working in collaboration with TLT Fellow Tim Simpson, we opened the Penn State Makercommons, complete with use cases, resources for faculty and students, and a community of makers already in place to take advantage of the space. This year, we’re working with this fantastic group of faculty to build on the theme of Making, by designing a class that will serve as a general education course for all of Penn State, and a gateway for students into the Making mindset, providing a possible on-ramp to a variety of majors in Engineering and Arts and Architecture.

“The course at the heart of this TLT Fellows project seeks to present and engage the vibrant Maker Culture at Penn State in all of its wonderful, messy complexity,” says Tom Lauerman, Assistant Professor of Visual Arts. “Penn State has a rich ‘Maker Culture’ which appropriately takes many forms in many colleges. This proposal seeks to use a new class as a vehicle for the exploration of overlapping spaces between disciplines, particularly via digital fabrication technology.”

Hand-in-hand with making is design. This course will also focus heavily on various aspects of design from across disciplines. “3D printing can play an important role in the larger world of making, especially as it relates to the possibility of a design revolution,” says Nicholas Meisel, Assistant Professor of Engineering. “Hands-on activities will help students come to terms with the opportunistic possibilities of 3D printing in design, as well as the restrictive limitations that are imposed on designs by 3D printing.”

“The democratization of design is a real – and good – thing. It is accessible to the masses, which is brilliant,” Matt Parkinson, Associate Professor of Engineering, adds. “We have learned a few things about design and although it’s not necessary, it might be helpful to try to share some of those with novice ‘makers’.”

Design thinking plays a critical role in Making for the Masses, and will be a central theme throughout the course. Aaron Knochel, Assistant Professor of Art Education, on design thinking:

Design thinking is a robust methodology for engaging with the complexity of contemporary life. From engineering to graphic design, design thinking can provide a core methodology by which learners pursue inquiry. Teaching design thinking to students is important to a wide range of STEAM-related occupations in the 21st century not only for the engagement of student learners, but to the important methodological merits of collaboration, contextual learning, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and iterative invention.

Making for the Masses is a course designed for anyone at Penn State, regardless of major or semester standing. We believe that something interesting is happening throughout the world around making and design thinking, particularly as technologies that support making are becoming widely available. “Depending on one’s point of view,” says Marcus Shaffer, Associate Professor of Architecture, “we are somewhere close to the apex of capitalism… making (images, artifacts, products, places, events, systems, ecosystems), who makes, and exchange/ownership are radically altered as fabrication technologies become common and accessible.”

We look forward to working with this amazing collection of faculty members throughout summer and fall 2016, with our goal of having Making for the Masses ready for curious students around the university in spring of 2017! 

The Making for the Masses team includes:
Bart Pursel (lead)
Markus Furer
Brad Kozlek
Amy Roche


Aaron Knochel
Assistant Professor of Art Education
College of Arts and Architecture
Matthew Parkinson
Associate Professor of Engineering Design
College of Engineering
Nicholas Meisel
Assistant Professor of Engineering Design
College of Engineering
Marcus Shaffer
Associate Professor of Architecture
College of Arts and Architecture
TLT Faculty Fellow Tim Simpson
Tim Simpson
Professor of Mechanical & Nuclear Engineering,
Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering
College of Engineering
Lauerman Portrait
Thomas Lauerman
Assistant Professor of Art
School of Visual Arts
College of Arts and Architecture
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