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Ashley Lindstrom
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Scott Evans has worn many hats in his career: mechanical engineer, materials scientist, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher. Each of these experiences provides a unique perspective as he takes on his newest position: director of the Longhorn Maker Studio.

Evans received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Cockrell School in 2005. As the new leader of one of the most innovative spaces on campus, Evans is enthusiastic about cross-disciplinary opportunities, research, commercialization and challenging students to realize their potential and build prototypes early.

What is most exciting about coming back to the Cockrell School and leading the Longhorn Maker Studio?

The studio is the kind of facility that I have wanted to build for a long time to accelerate multidisciplinary innovation. The fact that this facility will grow in an academic environment also resonates with my love of teaching and curriculum development.

Part of what I want to cultivate is an open and collaborative environment. I look forward to working with professors and students to build a place where serendipity happens — where people walk by and join conversations, and really neat collaboration starts to occur. This activity can be hugely important in the process of learning, creating the next experiment for research and developing new products.  I am thrilled that this kind of environment will be quite literally in the center of the EERC building.

Also, having access to all these new projects and tools is a delightful opportunity to learn more about electronics, control systems and all the other peripheral subjects around my core expertise. So I think of it as a playground for myself, too!

What is your vision for the Longhorn Maker Studio? 

My vision will evolve, but there are a few essential pieces that are set. I want to challenge freshmen to build something that works. Part of the experience for these students will be in discovering what they can do, becoming experimental and being open to broad possibilities. 

Also, I want real products based on UT Austin research to be designed and prototyped in the facility. This sets up a rich, multi-level community where education and real engineering mix. First-semester students can begin to experience later coursework, which I will help integrate into the facility, in addition to student-led projects and the development of complete engineering solutions.

Why is it important for freshmen and sophomores to experience the studio?

I want to help students see themselves as engineers sooner. When that happens, courses take on a new role for the students; they are more like resources to become a better engineer. There is also an opportunity for students to figure out what they truly care about as underclassmen, while they have time to pursue it. If they accept the challenge of starting projects right away — the projects can be instrumental in their development.

How do you see the studio complementing students’ coursework? How can it enhance their overall educational experience?

Part of what’s exciting about the maker studio is the opportunity to enhance the curriculum for all engineering disciplines. If we weave in projects that give students a chance to get hands-on experience throughout a degree program, then the complexity and quality of something more challenging like a senior design project can be dramatically increased. In the maker studio, we will be able provide resources for developing and offering courses that include open-ended projects.   Across a series of such courses, students can be prepared to delve deeper into complex projects, or create laboratory equipment, or develop a product in a team setting.

What would you say is the advantage of being located in Austin? 

Austin has a rich and collaborative startup community and many larger technology companies, and, ultimately, the studio should establish ties to that community. I can imagine opportunities for the right local mentors to show up and hang out with the students, see what they’re working on and offer guidance. I think our students can benefit tremendously from those relationships, and the Austin community can likely benefit from having a connection to a space like this where ideas flow from some of the most talented students in the world.

It would be ideal if this space serves as a foundation for those connections to occur, and for the university to play an integral role in Austin’s continuing growth as a center for entrepreneurship.

Why do you think it’s important for Texas Engineering to continue to champion the maker movement on campus?

The maker culture allows people to create a much richer vision of where they can be and what they can do. And with a space like this, in the middle of a world-class engineering school, you can have a huge impact on that personal vision.  To the students and to professors we will be able to say: If you want to make composites, we can make composites. If you want to machine some aluminum parts, we can do that. If you need electronics, we’ve got electronics. We’ve got 3-D printers, we’ve got scanners, we’ve got laser cutters — we’ve got everything!  What you can imagine you can build.

So whether you’re talking about a student who is the first in her family to come to a university, or someone whose entire family has Ph.Ds., you can put them in a position where they start trying to form a much richer vision of the future and where they can go. Once you do that, those visions become potential realities and our maker studio becomes the thing that helps them get there.

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