Online distributed prototyping through a university-makerspace collaboration

Gaved, Mark; Jowers, Iestyn; Dallison, Delphine; Elliott-Cirigottis, Gary; Rochead, Alan and Craig, Mark (2016). Online distributed prototyping through a university-makerspace collaboration. In: FabLearn Europe 2016, 19-20 Jun 2016, Preston, Lancashire, UK.



Distance based design education is limited in its ability to support learners’ exploration of tangible aspects of design processes. However this mode of learning trains students in working in online environments. Makerspaces offer training in physical aspects of making and designing but with a focus on informal teaching of instrumental skills. We have investigated the feasibility of bridging these environments to offer a more rounded educational experience that could prepare students for future employment in emerging redistributed manufacturing industries.

Our pilot study paired design students at The Open University with maker learners at MAKLab, a community makerspace. Teams communicated via an online environment, to evolve design concepts from sketches and CAD models to fabrication of a full scale prototype chair, repeated in three iterations. Participants experienced challenges in cross disciplinary communication and collaboration across the different learning cultures mediated solely by the internet, but learners noted they had gained insight into a range of processes, and the pilot showed potential as a model for future university-makerspace collaborations.

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