Class assignments help students explore Elon's Maker Hub
Jennifer Nunez, assistant professor of biology, shares how inclement weather inspired her to integrate the Maker Hub into her course assignments with overwhelming support from her students.
By Elizabeth Kirkhorn '19
When heavy snow made it impossible to hold class in January, Assistant Professor of Biology Jennifer Nunez didn’t waste the opportunity to enrich her students in a novel way. She directed a section of students enrolled in the Winter Term course, Biology: Weapon and Warrior, to the Maker Hub.
"Weapon and Warrior is in an introductory level class designed for non-biology students — it’s non-threatening!” Nunez says. “We learn about physiological aspects of the body through stories of forensic medicine and murder mysteries. I try and make it fun.”
The course includes a unit on bones that Nunez used to guide students towards the Maker Hub. The project was simple — use a 3D printer to produce a bone model using printer files that already exist.
For those students potentially intimidated by technology, Nunez emphasized the ease of using Maker Hub equipment to her class. She prepared her students for their visit to the Maker Hub by providing detailed instructions, but encouraged them to print whatever bone they found most interesting. Visiting the Maker Hub accounted for 5 percent of a student's overall grade, with students earning extra credit for sending Nunez a photo of their final creations.
“I now have so many pictures of kids with their bones!” Nunez says.
Brooke and Megan Muller, two of Nunez’s Winter Term students, took advantage of the opportunity to see what the Maker Hub had to offer, while also earning academic credit.
Brooke, a third-year strategic communications major, printed a fetal skull replica. Before this assignment, Brooke had little making experience and the Maker Hub was a foreign concept to her. She admits she had been intimidated by the machinery people use to create at the Maker Hub. Now she believes that there is a “a project for everyone” in the space.
“The staff was so helpful,” she says when asked her favorite part about the experience. “I had so many questions, ranging from ‘how do I log on?’ to ‘how do I select a printer?’ They were so patient and helped me through every step.”
Brooke’s younger sister, Megan, had a different take on her first time exploring the space. As a freshman, she appreciated the exposure to the Maker Hub early in her college career. Within 30 minutes of her first visit, Megan successfully printed a femur bone. She sees the space as a vessel “to give Elon students opportunities to be successful in all fields.
“I was very happy my teacher assigned this, because I know I can use the technology for different projects over the next three years,” Megan says.
The sisters already have plans to return to the Maker Hub in the near future. Brooke plans to make an engraved sign to customize her apartment, and Megan would like to experiment with wood in the space.
Nunez was thrilled to see her students take to the assignment and the space so keenly. “The assignment had a tremendous amount of value. Students think that they don’t have access to these resources, and so they don’t even know they have an interest in this kind of thing until they lay their hands on it,” she says. “The assignment was invaluable.”