Tactile Learning

23 May 2021

Tactile Learning

The Class of 1969 Makerspace fosters hands-on creativity and experimentation.

a student painting in the Makerspace

It’s Friday afternoon and Aaron Heidgerken-Greene can’t answer questions quickly enough as student after student walks into Carleton’s new makerspace: Where’s the embroidery thread? How can I increase the torque on this? Do I really need to wear safety glasses? Heidgerken-Greene, instrument project manager for the physics and astronomy department who manages the makerspace, deftly juggles the queries and directs visitors to tables, totes, and drawers around the brightly lit room.

a student working in the Makerspace

Located in the lower level of Anderson Hall, the Class of 1969 Makerspace opened in fall 2020 and has quickly become a magnet for students looking to engage in self-directed hands-on learning. Makerspaces have cropped up on campuses across the country in recent years as a generation raised on digital communication, video feeds, and virtual reality seeks out opportunities to build material objects. Carleton’s facility is equipped with 3-D printers, sewing machines, soldering irons, power tools, and myriad other implements for crafting and constructing. “Anyone is welcome to come in and use the tools,” Heidgerken-Greene said. “We just ask that if a project is going to take more than five minutes or five dollars in materials, people fill out a form that helps us track what they’re doing.”

Since its opening, students using the space have built microphones, carved wooden spoons, and created a 3-D model of Carleton’s campus. Physics major Lucy Griswold ’22 has used the space to build a video-game player that fits into an Altoids tin—an idea she gleaned from surfing YouTube. “It’s not a class project, just something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. 

“It’s a place where collaboration occurs,” Heidgerken-Greene said. “Students learn from other students.”