On September 24, 2014, two University Innovation Fellows went to the White House to address 60 leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) who attended a half-day Maker Workshop. Two Fellows, Jaime Aribas Starkey-El of Morgan State and Ulysses Knight of Virginia State. Jaime spoke on a panel (see video) about his efforts to bring a maker space to Morgan. He also happens to be on the team of Fellows driving the Student IP Rights project (independent of Epicenter, Stanford or VentureWell) and was able to garner support and visibility for their efforts.
This is one in a series of followup events the White House is holding to leverage its first ever Maker Faire held this past summer. As part of that event, Tim McNulty, Vice President of Government Relations at Carnegie Mellon, gathered 150 signatures from University Presidents to commit to the development of Maker Spaces. HBCUs were largely absent from that list. That’s not OK. It is imperative that HBCUs are at the forefront helping lead the movement that has the potential to democratizing innovation, entrepreneurship and opportunity. The workshop was designed to make that case and introduce resources in support of the effort.
The day was designed to shed light on the power of the Maker Movement to educate. The Founder of Make Magazine and the increasingly popular events called ‘Maker Faire’, was an inspiring keynote speaker following Tom Khalil’s opening remarks. Our colleagues from the United College Negro Fund and the American Public Land-grant Universities discussed their efforts to expand Innovation & Entrepreneurship offerings at HBCUs. All three referred to their partnership with Epicenter, through the Fellows program. Tim McNulty expressed an interest in developing a community amongst the 150 signatories, much in the way Fellows have used community to acheive its change strategies on campus. Our colleague Craig Forest of Georgia Tech highlighted the success of the Invention Studio, an entirely free student-run maker space available to all majors for class projects or pet projects. Students have access to an array of equipment and also teach one another classes to acquire new skills.
University Innovation Fellows was up at bat again in the last half, with yours truly speaking on the a panel alongside TechShop, Maker Faire/Make Magazine and NSF’s HBCU-UP Program, as resources to help HBCUs get started. The audience was very receptive to the our message of using students to get traction on space and, more importantly, what goes on in the space. Design thinking workshops, lean startup events, challenges and other learning opportunities are the kinds of things that make the difference between a cool room and a vibrant student community. This strategy, along with the students completing the landscape canvas and networking campus stakeholder efforts together, has aided the university administration’s efforts to expand I&E on campus. Fellows created 22 innovation spaces last year alone, three that attracted additional funded by the institution in the millions of dollars as they demonstrated strong student engagement. A number of school committed to bringing on the University Innovation Fellows program that day. There were many highlights to the day, but my personal favorite was meeting Megan Smith, former executive with GoogleX and new Chief Technology Officer of the United States of America (pictured below). With her at the helm as CTO, we may just see some amazing ‘moonshot’ approaches to embedding the maker movement into all schools throughout the U.S.
~Humera Fasihuddin, University Innovation Fellows