ACU Today Winter/Spring 2017

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place where innovation and creativity converge. That’s how director Dr. Nil Santana (’00 M.S.) describes ACU’s Maker Lab, which for the past three years has provided space and tools that allow students to give form to their ideas. “The Maker Lab gives our students the opportunity to develop valuable skills in tinkering, discovery and ingenuity that allow them to fully participate in shaping the world around them,” said Santana, assistant professor of art and design. “Maker” spaces are becoming more Santana popular at universities because it is a natural way of learning by doing, he said. From prosthetic hands created by students in the Master of Science in occupational therapy program to furniture fabricated by students in the art and design department, the Maker Lab allows users to solve problems and create working prototypes of their solutions. Winter-Spring 2017


Students generate ideas in design spaces equipped with drawing boards and computers, then bring their ideas to life using the latest technology in laser cutters, computer-controlled routers and 3D printers, along with more traditional tools. The Maker Lab reflects a broader concept called “Maker Movement” – a global subculture focused on rapid fabrication of innovative products addressing personal interests and broader societal problems. ACU’s occupational therapy students put this problem-solving approach into action as part of their degree plan. Introduction to Making, a graduate-level course offered to OT students, was developed to provide an immersive understanding of design principles, creative problem-solving and prototyping, said Santana, who co-teaches the class with associate professor and OT program director

Dr. Hope Martin and assistant professor Donna Walls. During the semester, students are challenged to incorporate design methodology into their OT practice by developing products pertaining to assistive technology and rehabilitation, Santana said. Solutions developed by the students have ranged from wheelchair attachments to devices for the visually impaired. Students also are challenged to modify and improve off-the-shelf rehab products. One of their class projects – building prosthetic hands with a 3D printer – was featured in the May 2016 issue of OT Practice, a magazine produced by the American Occupational Therapy Association. Prosthetic limbs that normally cost patients $2,500-$10,000 were created in the Maker Lab for less than $50 each, opening the door to help a larger number of underserved populations. Another prototype, created to treat a painful foot condition called plantar fasciitis, was the subject of a video that won the New Media Consortium and Educause Horizon Report video competition, which