The Charger Blog

Faculty Members Build Skills and Community at MakeHaven

This summer a group of faculty members flipped the script as they became students, working on projects at MakeHaven. Now they are bringing what they learned to the classroom.

October 17, 2019

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Gene Mayer
Gene Mayer created pieces based on deconstructing letter forms.

Mary Isbell, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and director of First-Year Writing and the Writing Center, has always loved woodworking. With a small set of tools at home, she was limited to what she could work on, so she joined the community at MakeHaven, a makerspace that educates and empowers people by facilitating interest-driven projects and providing access to technology.

Isbell, who is learning how to use a table saw, spent time in the makerspace’s woodshop. She is creating a picture rail – a wooden display – to house student projects on the third floor of Harugari Hall.

In addition to building her woodworking skills, Isbell says she also learned how to make the time to work on her project. She realized that juggling busy schedules is also a challenge for her students – something that can discourage them from pursuing research opportunities.

Image of Mary Isbell, Ph.D.
Mary Isbell, Ph.D. enjoyed working in the makerspace’s woodshop.

In an effort to change that, Isbell and several of her colleagues are building a new one-credit course. The digital humanities lab encourages students to experiment with different tools for the first half of the semester and then to propose a research project to take on with a faculty mentor.

"For anyone who is creative – or who aspires to be – there is a wide range of things to do at MakeHaven."Gene Mayer

"Students are most likely to get involved if there is an actual course they are enrolled in," said Isbell. "They need to have enough of an introduction to new technologies that they can experiment on their own and ask questions. I found that at MakeHaven, and I found the whole process very inspiring."

Isbell was one of more than a dozen faculty members who joined the MakeHaven community this summer to learn about making. The participants met recently to discuss their projects, as well as the impact making can have on teaching.

Image of Kento Yasuhara, Ph.D.
Kento Yasuhara, Ph.D. shares his work with the MakeHaven community.

The program was supported through the Grant for Remaking Education through Action Together (GREAT) program that provided MakeHaven memberships to faculty members for the summer to use the equipment in the makerspace. They could learn at their own pace, using whatever equipment they wanted, including 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing and embroidery machines, and a soldering station.

"We’re working to get students to use this space, and we want faculty members to get comfortable with using it," said Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, director of University makerspace and associate professor of mechanical engineering. "This space is getting us ready for the cutting-edge new makerspace we will have when the Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation opens next year."

Kento Yasuhara, Ph.D., an associate professor of criminal justice, made a cup holder he designed, inspired by the frequent problem of cups not fitting into the cupholders he had. In doing so, he learned about prototyping and the process engineers follow when problem solving.

Image of R. Lillianne Macias, Ph.D.
R. Lillianne Macias, Ph.D. created t-shirts for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"I enjoyed this experience because it was different from what I do every day," he said. "I wanted to explore, and this was a great learning opportunity."

The makerspace, located in the arts district of downtown New Haven, has approximately 5,000 square feet of space, where members can work on their projects.

"For anyone who is creative – or who aspires to be – there is a wide range of things to do at MakeHaven," said Gene Mayer, an adjunct faculty of art and design who created pieces that were based on deconstructing letter forms. "It is a wonderful community. Being able to interact helps us to encourage our own visions."

R. Lillianne Macias, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology, used the makerspace to create t-shirts for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. She hopes the space will enable students to create more shirts for less money.

"This enabled me to make connections – every project involved working with others."R. Lillianne Macias, Ph.D.

"The project was very meaningful – especially because of the people I met and learned from at the makerspace," she said. "This enabled me to make connections – every project involved working with others."

For more information about the GREAT Grant or about making, please email Maria-Isabel Carnasciali at