Shortly after Olin College was founded, the leadership and the faculty decided that in order to support a project-based mechanical engineering curriculum, the college would need a machine shop. We bought equipment. We hired staff. We created training protocols. In short, we created a very capable production machine shop. Work orders went in; parts came out.
As the curriculum and culture of Olin evolved from the early days, design began to play a larger and larger role in our learning experiences. Along with a focus on design came a bias toward action and the pervasive practice of iterative prototyping. We recognized the power of the dialog between making and thinking, synthesis and analysis. We saw value in creating learning experiences in which every student (not just the mechanical engineers) learns to design and build something.
We undertook this project to create a more expansive definition of making at Olin, one that welcomes and provides access points for all students. We sought to improve the community's experience of The Shop through user research, design, and prototyping. Our team of students, faculty, and staff collaborated to build the foundation for a healthy culture of student engagement, autonomy, ownership and stewardship. Going forward, sustained integration with Olin's curriculum will allow The Shop to serve as a creative platform for experimenting with ideas related to the role of making and fabrication in learning broadly.