The MILL and Dabble Lab are makerspaces that provide UW students, staff and faculty the tools and resources to build and prototype to bring their ideas to life. Each makerspace is a social, multidisciplinary and collaborative environment that connects the UW’s creative community. The OYPC team had the pleasure of talking with Dei Caudle to learn more about her role as the instructional technician and how the makerspaces have impacted the UW community.
The History and The Making
Since 2018, Dei has been supervising and maintaining the MILL, allowing for the UW community to continue to use the space to explore their own creativity. Dei graduated from the UW with a physics degree and began working as a resident advisor in UW’s housing program before she decided to transition to the MILL. The work, which blends working with people and science, felt like the right fit for her.
The MILL is located in McCarty Hall on North Campus and was opened in 2019 after the success of the Dabble Lab located in Maple Hall, a residence hall located on West Campus, which opened in 2014.
The idea of having a makerspace included in the on-campus housing residence was introduced by Brian Fabien, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the College of Engineering. More than just a residence, Maple Hall is a fully immersive living-learning environment for UW engineering students to participate in a community with those of the same interests and majors. In 2014, the new Maple Hall plans included a community focused area which evolved the idea of having a makerspace for engineering students (and resident assistants) to gather, learn from one another and collaborate together. The goal of the makerspaces is for students to design and produce their very own work in an environment made to foster innovation through community learning.
“The numbers have shown how much students value the makerspace…we get 11,000 distinct people who come in…so people come in, they use [the space] for projects, the classes they take…the space is really to get people in and excited about learning new things.” – Dei Caudle
The Role & Impact of the Makerspace
As an instructional technician, Dei is responsible for overseeing the MILL. This means making sure the equipment is in good working condition, organizing repairs and supervising students during workshops.
Dei also helped develop a course curriculum used with college students during the school year and adapted for use over the summer through Continuum College’s Youth & Teen Programs in a hybrid model. The curriculum focuses on teaching students how to use the different equipment at the MILL and learning about the space and the engineering design process. The MILL chose to continue with a hybrid model program for the 2021-22 year after spending a lot of time developing a high quality online program for the 2020-21 year. The MILL has found a hybrid model that accommodates students outside of Seattle, allowing them to participate in the program virtually while also giving those closer to UW opportunities to come in.
Dei emphasized how the makerspace is a resource for learning: students can come in with no experience and leave knowing how to operate a new machine. She encourages and enjoys watching community members combine the different resources offered at the makerspace to pursue their passions in addition to their work. The MILL, specifically, features industry-standard equipment, unavailable to students in any other nonacademic campus venue. Some of the equipment featured include 3D printers, laser cutters, advanced art and design tools, a water jet cutter, embroidery machines and so much more! Dei and her team are currently working on building out the process to teach students how to use more advanced machines that require more credentials to use.
When asked about her favorite part of the role, Dei expressed her enthusiasm and pride towards her students and their work. It’s clear that the makerspace becomes a home for many on campus who want to be a part of a greater creative community:
“We see students come in as freshmen and stay all four years of their college experience and that’s wonderful to watch them grow…you watch them go through the college process and you get to build that relationship over 4 years. It’s always sad when they graduate, but it’s great knowing we’ve given them a place to be in a community. A lot of our staff are friends with each other and we’ve created a community which, to me, is very meaningful.” – Dei Caudle
The success of the makerspaces has made a huge impact on the UW community, allowing for creative collaboration and individual passion pursuits. Dei shares that she hopes the community only grows and becomes even more publicized to those outside of engineering who want to learn more about the different machines and technology available.
“The things we are working on as a team are really making sure we are advertising ourselves and making sure people know we exist outside of the STEM area. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has stumbled in and they go ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t know this was here!’….Making sure people know we are here and letting them know what we can do to help them is really important to us.” – Dei Caudle
Although there is a set budget to provide the makerspaces with machine replacement and repairs, the MILL is currently working on an STF proposal to get even more equipment! This aligns with the goal of makerspaces to expose and equip students with the newest and latest technology that they might encounter after graduating from UW.
Every year in the beginning of April, UW hosts the annual Maker Summit for students to showcase their projects within different categories such as photography, software, 3D printing and beyond. It’s a competition for students to show off their work while also getting the chance to win within their category. While only UW students can enter the Maker Summit, faculty, staff and the public are encouraged to come and view the projects. The Maker Summit also runs workshops and activities, a great opportunity for the public to get a chance to experience and try-out the machines offered at the MILL.
A BIG THANK YOU to Dei for taking the time out of her busy life to share her stories with all of us as a part of Youth at UW!
Access to the MILL is free for all UW students!
Beginning Saturday, September 24, 2022, the makerspace will be open 8:30 AM – Midnight, Monday – Friday and 1 PM – Midnight, Saturday and Sundays.
Location: McCarty Hall, 2100 NE Whitman Ct., Seattle, WA 98195
Contact: 206-616-1162 and email@example.com