Tennessee Tech named one of Best Maker Schools

Students use a 3-D printer to make pancakes at a recent event in Tennessee Tech's iMaker Space.

COOKEVILLE – Newsweek recently named Tennessee Tech University as one of the Best Maker Schools not only in the United States, but also in the world. Those included in the list – such as Vanderbilt, Yale, Princeton and Cambridge – were required to demonstrate curricula that encourage learning by doing, educators who were committed to collaborative problem-solving, and to have well-developed maker spaces.

Tennessee Tech demonstrates all these qualities with the innovative iMakerSpace, located on the third floor of the Angelo & Jennette Volpe Library.

“It’s teamwork,” said Ismail Fidan, who is a manufacturing and engineering technology professor at Tech, as well as the director of the iMakerSpace. “We all have a really great harmony: myself, our staff, our student assistants and work study students, and we are just unified in our desire to meet the needs of students in a faculty and a campus.”

The space is home to a variety of technology ranging from manual and powered hand tools to seven different types of 3D printers. The vast majority of students coming into the space tend to be those majoring in engineering, nursing and business, with some in education, however the iMakerSpace is open to students, faculty, and even the general public.

During their open hours of 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, anyone is welcome to stop inside to use the equipment after they have been properly trained. Outside of those hours, the facility is reserved for clubs and approved advanced users.

Getting to use the type of equipment that is used in real-life work environments gives students an advantage when they graduate and advance into the workforce. They don’t need to be taught how to use the equipment on the job – they already have experience.

“These days, you can’t just do your routine coursework and homework and take your exams,” Fidan said. “Students have to find their niches and make sure they are up-to-date with the cutting-edge technology. Studies show that if you are engaged to those kinds of activities like 3D printing and scanning and virtual reality, you have a higher chance of succeeding in the workforce. We just recently placed three engineers with Tesla. It’s a wonderful success for us. People see the niches that we have as Tennessee Tech.”

In 2020, Tech’s iMakerSpace was even put to use during a national emergency. When Gov. Bill Lee put out a call for help manufacturing headbands for COVID-19 face shields, the iMakerSpace joined other groups on campus that owned 3D printers and set to work printing hundreds of the headbands that were then picked up by the military to distribute to healthcare workers working on the front lines in the early days of the pandemic.

“We are here to help, not only students but faculty and the community as well,” Fidan said.

For those wanting a taste of what is available in the iMakerSpace, there are free workshops scheduled from 11 – 11:45 a.m. on the following dates:

  • Feb. 17 – 3D Printing with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
  • March 3 – Laser cutting with GlowForge
  • March 10 – CNC Machining with ShopBot
  • March 24 – Vinyl cutting with Cricut
  • April 7 – Arduino Programming

For more information or to register for any of the workshops, email imakerspace@tntech.edu with your name, major and T-number. To learn more about the iMakerSpace, visit

https://www.tntech.edu/engineering/research/imakerspace/ .

To see Newsweek’s full list of Maker Schools, visit https://www.newsweek.com/best-maker-school-list-2021.

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