Lande set on ‘making’ the most of Tooker Professorship
Above: Micah Lande, an assistant professor of engineering and manufacturing engineering, shows some Sun Devil pride with Arizona State University’s Art of Invention summer camp attendees on June 9. A recent recipient of a Tooker Professorship, Lande looks to use the maker spirit as a way to engage young people in STEM fields and provide educational pathways to engineering. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU
Micah Lande identifies first and foremost as a maker. And he thinks you’re one, too.
“For me, everyone is a maker,” says Lande, an assistant professor of engineering and manufacturing engineering. “It’s an inherently human thing to want to build and create.”
Lande thinks this innate maker spirit can be harnessed to better engage and educate engineering students. He sees it as part of what already puts the Fulton Schools of Engineering on the leading edge of engineering education. Lande’s passion for making — a growing movement that encourages learning-by-doing through tinkering with technology and tools — recently landed him a coveted Tooker Professorship.
Selected annually through a competitive proposal process, Tooker Professors are appointed for one- to two-year terms during which they implement innovative projects to increase engineering student retention and persistence, create more rewarding learning experiences and greater student diversity as well as provide experiences that give engineering students a competitive edge in the job market.
The Tooker Professorship was established in 2011 with an endowment from Diane and Gary Tooker. Diane is a former elementary school teacher, and Gary is one of our engineering alumni and the former CEO of Motorola; both are passionate about creating exciting learning environments that attract students to and retain them in STEM fields.
When Lande first saw the call for proposals for the Tooker Professorship, he used the opportunity as a way to synthesize his research curiosities, teaching endeavors and engineering outreach activities.
“It was really quite an amazing surprise to receive the Tooker Professorship,” says Lande, noting the exemplary company he finds himself in as a newly-minted Tooker Professor.
Lande’s winning proposal envisions the Fulton Innovation Corps, a set of opportunities for engineering students to explore, develop and deploy solutions to problems they care about outside of their prescribed programs of study. He’s excited at the prospect of using his Tooker Professorship to further these goals.
“It’s a way to evangelize my interest and passion for empathy-led design thinking, prototyping and making, as well as entrepreneurship, and share that with Fulton engineering students,” says Lande. “It’s also a means to get potential engineering students excited about what I see as the really useful and impactful educational pathway to becoming an engineer — to make a difference.”
At the core of his work is the idea that technical and non-technical people alike can imagine, build and make their future.
“Engineering education has traditionally been a set of knowledge and skills one accumulates and practices in the classroom,” says Lande. “To figure out what problems to solve and solving those problems for a person, community or organization’s needs outside of the classroom is to put engineering to work.”
But before solving a problem, the first step is prototyping or building a solution and Lande believes this enables students to tell impactful stories of design challenges.
“For me, the fun part about being a professor is setting the stage for a learning experience where I can be surprised and delighted by what students come up with,” he says. It’s exciting to see the ways our students go out and make the world better. The notion of the New American University — an inclusive, educational entity — seems to me very much in line with the maker community and its methodology.”
In the pursuit of cross-pollenating making and engineering, Lande’s projects largely center on programs that aim to engage both Fulton Schools students and potential engineering students. Lande will grow his summer outreach program “The Art of Invention” that emphases design thinking and creative problem solving as well as making and tinkering. Leveraging his existing partnership with the Maker Education Initiative, Lande hopes to give incoming engineering freshmen a jump-start on innovative thinking and problem solving that can be applied to their coursework as well as provide an opportunity for Fulton engineering students to mentor incoming students.
“Students are able to get their hands dirty, making stuff right from the start and experiencing what engineering is and what it can do in particular contexts. They will invent and innovate, and get excited about engineering through making,” says Lande. Additional activities during the academic year will help students use design thinking and making to problem solve in service of local communities.
Lande also will to build on VentureWell’s University Innovation Fellows program, a national collective of student leaders preparing themselves for the demands of tomorrow’s economy by promulgating design thinking and the innovation mindset. ASU has sent a half-dozen engineering students through the program and Lande seeks to grow that number. He hopes extending the program will aid in growing student leadership to sustain the Fulton Innovation Corps.
Lande’s work has garnered recognition as a thought leader in the making and education communities from outside the Fulton Schools as well.
As part of the National Week of Making this June 17–23, 2016, Lande has been invited to the Nation of Makers Workshop organized by the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy on June 17, 2016. He will share his experiences with making and education as the representative from the state of Arizona. In conjunction, Lande will also attend the Higher Ed Maker Symposium on June 21. He’s also slated to present at the 2nd annual flagship National Maker Faire on June 17, talking on the topic of “Making Engineers.” Recently, he presented at the May 2016 Maker Education Convention to an audience of making educators assembled by the Maker Education Initiative.
Lande also incorporated his interest and experience with making and engineering into his research agenda. He has a number of research projects that explore the role of making in engineering education, with support from the National Science Foundation. With colleagues, Lande is investigating the educational pathways of adult makers and young makers. He is also part of a team in the Polytechnic School that is revolutionizing engineering education by creating learning environments that values risk-taking, making, innovation and creativity among its students and faculty.
Lande is also working with colleagues in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society to explore digital storytelling and making activities to help advance public understanding of STEM.
Pete Zrioka, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering