Today we are talking with Amy Dinh and Laura Mitchell from the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation. They are discussing the courses available to incoming frosh and transfer students, the Maker Pass program and more.
The home of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation expands the role of design in engineering education at Berkeley. No matter what field of engineering you’re in, you’ll get hands-on practice with design automation, rapid prototyping, and team-based learning. You’ll be challenged to approach the entire cycle of design, manufacturing and end-user needs from an integrated vantage point.
- Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation
- Courses offered
- Articles about projects and events from Jacobs Hall
Laura Vogt: Hi my name is Laura Vogt and I’m excited to be meeting with you again for our fourth podcast of the summer. I’m the communications and events manager for Engineering Student Services. I’m really excited today, I’ve got two people from the Jacobs Institute of Design, Amy Dinh and Laura Mitchell. Amy why don’t you tell us about what you do for the Jacobs Institute.
Amy Dinh: Sure, I am the student services adviser for Jacobs. What that means, I am the first point of contact for students who are interested in design and things that come through our building, outreach, program management, things like that.
Laura V: And Laura, what do you do for them?
Laura Mitchell: I am the Jacobs communications and programs officer. As the name implies I manage our communications, our public programs, things like talks and other events, and work on other outreach to our community more broadly.
Laura V: Both of you can answer this but what would students and discuss with you or talk to you about?
Amy: Anything and everything. Our doors always open. I in particular do advising for students if you have a question about what is design, how can I get involved with design, what are the resources on campus that I can check out? These are the questions that I am happy to answer. I also help with academic course scheduling. So if you have questions about classes you can take, happy to answer those questions too and generally try to be the first point of contact. So when in doubt just ask and if I don’t know the answer I will direct students to where they can get the information they need.
Laura V: Oh fantastic. And Laura.
Laura M: Just to chime in, typically the reasons students come and talk to me relate to connecting to our communities. So if you can come chat with me if you have questions about events, ways to connect with industry and the broader community. And also since I do a lot of storytelling around the awesome work that students make at Jacobs, if you make something cool and you want to share it with the world, let me know and I’m happy to help with that.
Laura V: So Laura, what is design?
Laura M: Design is a word that means many things to any people. At the Jacobs Institute we think about a lot as a way of solving problems. We think that when you’re designing you’re doing two things: You’re focusing of course on function, solving a specific problem, providing an outcome within a set of constraints, making things that work. But you also want to make things that are really meaningful to your users, the people that are going to actually use what you are going to make. So you want to make something that is meaningful, enjoyable, helpful for people. So we try to train students to think both about the details and technologies that make something work and also the broader context that makes something matter.
Laura V: Oh, ok.
Amy: And if I can add onto Laura’s great description. The other question is who can be a designer and who can be involved in design and the answer is everyone. Berkeley doesn’t have a design major. The students we serve come from all over campus. Design because it is a set of principles and tools and methodologies is a something that can be applied to anything from mechanical engineering to computer science all the way through arts and design.
Laura V: It is not necessarily just stuck around engineers. You are getting people from all across campus.
Amy: Exactly. That is the great part of our community. We try to be inclusionary. It is a big part of what we think design can and should be is something that involves multiple diverse perspectives.
Laura V: When did Jacobs Hall open?
Laura M: We opened in Fall 2015. We just wrapped up our second school year.
Laura V: What was the reasoning behind opening up this institute? Why did we want to do that?
Laura M: I think a lot of what into the thinking around launching the Jacobs Institute was A – sort of recognizing that there had been all of this amazing design activity going on at Berkeley already. Through clubs or different classes or different initiatives. A lot of it student driven. So as we thought about taking that further, one thing that came up in the vision of Paul Jacobs, for whom the building is named as well as students, faculty and staff stakeholders that were involved was thinking through these 21st century skills that leaders need to have. Things like working in interdisciplinary teams, combining fields, like Amy just mentioned, combining art and science and areas of expertise. Things like technical skills. We wanted a place where we could bring all of that together and Jacobs Hall does serve that role as a hub. Where people can gather from different disciplines – everything from your initial sketch to a really refined prototype. You can really go through a full design process at Jacobs Hall.
Laura V: What resources are available for the students at Jacobs?
Amy: We have different types of access points for students that are interested in design. That is everything from students with different interests in design to students with different levels of experience in design. The main things that we offer for students are courses, taught by both Jacobs instructors as well as other departments and also student led classes which are called decals which are also fantastic. We have lots of events in the building, some hosted by us and also lots that are hosted by student groups. Student groups will also meet in the building so we provide facilities and just space to meet and collaborate as another one of resources. And then finally we have a great Maker Space, which is fancy 20th century term for equipment facilities for people that interested in fabrication and prototyping and hands-on making. T some that classes, that is events, that is student activities space and there’s a makerspace.
Laura V: What is the student community like there?
Amy: I think that the great thing about community as we were mentioning earlier is that is very diverse and there are people coming from everything from graphic design student club to a prototype fabrication class to students coming from cognitive science who are very interested in human centered design process. Lots of different perspectives on design come into our community. I also think it is pretty inspiring just because our students if they have an idea, they not only think about it but they actually create it. It is beautiful, it’s inspiring and innovative. The last thing is that it is a pretty friendly environment. I see a lot of students helping each other out, hanging out with each other, answering questions if someone is stuck on a challenge or problem. It’s a nice environment to be a part of, I think.
Laura V: What type of courses are being offered to the students?
Amy: There are, as I mentioned earlier, a range in both topic and experience level. In terms of experience level we have introductory courses that are aimed at lower division students. Things like visual sketching and communication, where you’re learning about visual and drawing principles. Design methodology is another of our introductory classes that is open to lower division students. And then we have upper division classes that are more aimed towards students who are working on a particular challenge and are able to bring their learning and perspectives from their prior studies. For example, reimagining mobility which is a projects based class where students are trying to think of new solutions for transportation in the future. We Have classes like interactive device design, which is open to graduate and upper division where they’re making objects that have hardware and software components that combine together. A lot of interesting topics, again, that span skills and subject areas.
Laura V: How do the students gain access to the Jacobs Hall labs because you were talking about they can get into the makerspace.
Amy: The access program for getting to the makerspace is called the Makers Pass Program. It is open to all students on campus. You don’t even need to be taking a class in Jacobs. If you are interested in getting a pass you just have to be a Berkeley student who is interested in design. In order to get a Maker’s Pass you do three steps each semester. You fill out a quick application form, it is basically first come, first serve. You would pay the $75 fee for the semester or ask for a fee waiver, which we provide to students with financial need. Finally you would take a quick online safety training just to walk you through some basic policies for the makerspace. After that you have a maker’s pass for the semester. You can come in, take trainings on different equipment we have. We have four floors in the building and each for has equipment space on it. It is a pretty diverse and exciting range of tools that students can learn how to use. And we have staff called design specialist and student staff who are able to answer questions and provide expertise and advising. Basically open to everyone and we encourage students to check it out.
Laura V: So you don’t actually have to be taking a course in order to do the Maker Pass, you can..
Amy: Yes, exactly. We see lots of different types of projects being made in the makerspace. Class projects are one of them, but there are also people doing personal projects, around holiday times you see people making things for friends and family, which is really fun. You have people doing research for their professors for example. You have students also doing things for their clubs. Fabricating either pieces of a project or doing things like printing out decals to distribute at tabling events. Lots of different types of things happening in the building.
Laura V: Laura, why don’t you tell me some of your favorite projects or a piece of equipment or just your favorite aspect of what’s going on at the Jacobs Institute.
Laura M: It is really hard to pick a favorite but one of things I love is seeing the creations that come out of every semester, of every year. I was just thinking about some of the student projects that have come out even in the last few months. They are such a wide range. We see students creating innovative medical devices, things that can help you diagnose pneumonia at a lower cost, or that can help patients with Parkinson’s monitor their symptoms. For really kind of critical needs, students are taking the initiative in courses or independently to develop these solutions. On the other side of things you see really creative or artistic projects. One that comes to mind that was a really fun one recently was students thought about having a cast when you’re a kid and how that’s not very fun. So they thought how can they reimagine this? They used tools in the makerspace from electronics to the 3D printer to prototype a cast that can have a custom bubble blower. You can do all sorts of magical and whimsical things with it. Just seeing that range is a lot of fun. Those are two projects that come to mind.
Laura V: I know one of the things that I really liked about Jacobs is not that long ago you had a Make-a-thon with EnableTech sponsoring it, which is one of our student orgs. It was pretty awesome to watch as basically over the course of a weekend these students came up with ideas of what need-knowers needed to make life easier for them. It was really cool to see all these people come together and they were able to create everything on-site. Like the woman with the basket on her wheelchair, started out the weekend not have anything and then at the end of the weekend because you had all the equipment and supplies they need, she left with a working, useful thing on her wheelchair as she went out.
Amy: Yeah, I think those are some of my favorite projects too where students are combining design piece, technology piece and also this human centered piece. Where they are making something that is not only very technologically interesting but also very socially impactful and very meaningful. My other favorite project that I see in the building, we have some cool projects coming out of fabrication that is one of our introductory courses and that is just a really fun class because there are no prerequisites for that class. You don’t have to have any programming or design or fabrication experience coming in but when you leave your capstone project is a remote control vehicle that you have to have designed, built, programmed and then pilot through an obstacle course as part of the final showcase. Its really great to see how much our students are able to do given some tools and given some encourage to be creative and really push the boundaries of what they can make.
Laura V: For all of our students that are listening to the podcast right now, how are they going to be able find out more about the design that you have, about Jacobs Hall, and how can they get more information about what we are talking about today?
Amy: Over the summer as you’re listening to this podcast, I encourage you to check out our website which is jacobsinstitute.berkeley.edu, which Laura (Mitchell) does a great job of curating, and there is a section on their about student resources. So that is a good preview of what they can expect. Once students are on campus for the Golden Bear Orientation or also in the fall, please just stop by and say hi to one of us. I think the nature of our building of design is seeing things in person always just makes things much more real. Stop by our office which is 103 Jacobs Hall to ask questions. We’ll try to arrange some tours for new students and don’t be afraid to stop by and check out our events, check out our space and just get involved in our community.
Laura V: Fantastic! Thank you both so much for spending the time with us today and I’m really excited to share more about the offerings we have for our students. Thank you.
Amy/Laura M: Thank you.