Participants of the Tufts Maker Network's "Weekend of Making" on Jan. 30, 2016. Courtesy Andy Braren

150 students attend Tufts Maker Network’s ‘Weekend of Making’

The Tufts Maker Network hosted its first Weekend of Making, which involved a series of do-it-yourself (DIY) workshops, on Jan. 30 and 31. According to the Maker Network website, the two-day program, which emphasized student-driven crafting as a learning mechanism, was held at the Maker Studio on 574 Boston Ave. on the 30th and the Crafts Center in Lewis Hall on the 31st.

19 workshops were held throughout the program, including lessons in pottery throwing, t-shirt making and LEGO robotics, among other things, according to the event schedule on the Maker Network website. According to Andy Braren, president of Tufts MAKE, over 150 students attended workshops throughout the course of the weekend. 

While Braren, a graduate student, noted that the organizers were not prepared for the “huge influx of people” on the first day, he was excited by the interest the student body demonstrated in this event.

“It was probably 60 kids or something in the Maker Studio, which was not really created for that capacity,” Braren said. “[The people] sort of overflowed into the hallways and we had to make some quick decisions. That was kind of a workout, but we got through it. [It was a] good challenge to have, having more people than anticipated.”

While most of the workshops were student-led, Professor Chris Rogers, chair of mechanical engineering, hosted a workshop on “the Internet of Things” and Somerville community member Alessandrini Costa held a session on machine knitting, Braren said. 

The Weekend of Making was the first event held by the Maker Network, a new collective of five student groups — Tufts Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Crafts Center and Crafts House, Tufts Robotics Club, Tufts Entrepreneurs Society and Tufts MAKE, according to the Maker Network website. 

According to Braren, the Maker Network promotes an educational philosophy of “learning by making.”

“That shared philosophy is the common thread between our groups,” Braren said, “and we see it as an effective alternative to traditional book-learning that we do in classes.”

Braren saw the event as a kickoff to the collective’s activities over the rest of the semester.

“We plan on doing more workshops on pretty much all the things we did at the weekend,” Braren said. “This is a collaboration among all of us to say this stuff is here at Tufts and we’ll continue to do more in the future, but it’s time that Tufts students realize that they can learn by making stuff. You can learn by doing things extracurricularly.”

The event, which Rogers said was partially funded by the Department of Mechanical Engineering, also drew attention to the makers spaces Tufts offers, particularly the Maker Studio , which opened this semester, and the Crafts Center, according to Braren.

Braren also noted that expanding past internal Tufts leadership to include Costa was also a step toward involving the DIY community beyond campus. 

“There are definitely makers in Somerville and Medford,” he said. “And this is an avenue for them to connect with Tufts students.”

Helen Sibila, co-manager of the Crafts Center, echoed this sentiment and noted the growth of the “maker” scene in Somerville, as evidenced by art spaces such as Artisan’s Asylum, which is a “non-profit community fabrication center,” according to its website.

“There’s a very thin wall between us and them [adult art spaces],” Sibila, a sophomore, said. “We’re seeing a pretty big focus on them in the Somerville community. There’s a lot of spaces for adult makers in the area, so it’s cool that they’re coming over and sharing that knowledge with us.”

According to Rogers, the results of the event were overwhelmingly positive.

“Everyone was totally psyched,” Rogers said. “I was totally psyched to see the number of students, the diversity of students — they weren’t just engineers — and the fact that it was student-driven.”

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