Courtesy of UMass-Amherst, Center for Public Policy and Administration

Associate Professor Charles Schweik (environmental conservation and public policy) took a group of students last weekend to the international Maker Faire in New York City. The event, which has been touted as the “greatest show and tell on earth,” showcases diverse do-it-yourself technologies, including three-dimensional design and printing; unmanned robotic vehicles such as an open-source underwater robot; and devices made from do-it-yourself low-cost computing methods.

In addition to public policy and administration students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the group included students from the UMass departments of natural resource conservation; engineering; and communication, as well as computer science students from Mt. Holyoke College and some eighth-graders from Amherst Regional Middle School. The students were part of a new undergraduate course offered by the UMass department of environmental conservation and the Center for Public Policy and Administration, which encourages students to undertake collaborative “maker” projects to solve environmental science and management problems.

Projects these interdisciplinary students are working on include: balloon-based remote sensing of land cover; monitoring water and air contamination; and low-cost scientific equipment for inventorying or monitoring wildlife. The student teams are documenting and sharing their research with Public Laboratory for Science, an organization committed to making do-it-yourself scientific equipment and methods available to underserved communities around the globe.

Last weekend’s field trip is part of a larger collaborative effort between the UMass colleges of Natural Sciences; Social and Behavioral Sciences; and Engineering, working in partnership with Amherst Media to conduct outreach in the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools related to open science and “making.” This town-gown partnership was highlighted in a recent White House report on university efforts to encourage the national maker movement.

The trip to New York City was made possible by support from a UMass Amherst Public Service Endowment Grant, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the College of Engineering.

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