OCC Hosts “Makers Academy” Pathway Day

AUTHOR: Steve Fuchs, Assistant Professor of Architecture & Design Fabrication

On April 28th, Orange Coast College (OCC) hosted a maker-focused college and career pathway day. In attendance were thirty (26) students from Estancia High School’s construction program, a regional occupational program offered through Coastline College (one of our sister schools). Their teacher Michael Rafferty also teaches guitar making and woodworking at OCC.

Together with Dr. Dean Abernathy and Steve Fuchs, both professors in OCC’s Architecture Technology program, Rafferty, his assistants, and the OCC team led 3 hours of activities focused on CNC routing a small table that was personalized on a laser cutter. Each student was introduced to general shop safety, craftsmanship, 2D drawing in CAD software (Rhino), and basic use of makerspace equipment. Over 10 college-level design students with fabrication knowledge assisted and oversaw two groups of students throughout the entire making process (CNC group & 3D/laser cutting group). Each group was divided into a team of 2–3 students to keep instructor-to-student ratio low.

Highlights included students winning the final tables, if their personalized element was a specific size that fit into a CNC’s pocket on the table top. Overheard were comments like, “Dude, I’m SO stoked!”, “You can do it girl—you’re a maker!”, and “I never knew a place like this existed.” OCC is preparing for their first summer “Makers Academy”, a 3-week dynamic, hands-on bridge program that will introduce students to design thinking, 3D modeling, coding, and prototyping techniques used in a makerspace environment. As they design and create projects that solve real-world problems, the program’s students will fully immerse in maker culture and many of the same makerspace technologies used in the pathway day, including: 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC routing, and robotics.

Upon reflection during the lunch that was provided, organizers learned this type of hands-on outreach was tangibly beneficial for the high school students, our design students, professors, and counselors at both schools. OCC is in the process of completing a mobile makerspace and expanding its existing makerspace to facilitate design and making experiences on campus, at local schools, and community events. They hope to provide an increased number of opportunities to their entire ecosystem and newly targeted/underserved populations in their region to be exposed to—and meaningfully experience—new and less conventional college and career pathways, using the CCC Maker grant as a catalyst for sustainably supporting makers in California’s vibrant and creative economy.