UAF Makerspace Showcases Innovative Students

May 10, 2021

Makerspace openhouse
Lathrop High School junior Sam Larsen (right) talks to Institute of Northern Engineering Dean Bill Schnabel about the CO2 monitor he created in the Teaching Through Technology (T3) Alliance makerspace at UAF during an open house event last week. Photo by Amanda Byrd.

A new makerspace at UAF, that opened its doors in March 2021 during the pandemic, is the product of a partnership between Alaska Upward Bound, Alaska Center for Energy and Power, UAF’s Alaska Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship, and the UAF Middle College program.

This makerspace is accessible to creative and innovative freshman innovators. And, provides access to motivated high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. This past semester it was only open to students in the middle college program, next semester it will be open to both college and middle college students.

Sam Larsen was working with the T3 alliance before the makerspace was developed, and took a cheap do-it-yourself weather station design to a whole new level.

An ACEP team led by Dayne Broderson recently developed an approach to using cheap off-the-shelf temperature, humidity sensors and simple outdoor weather stations to provide real-time climate data from remote locations supporting energy resilience on the Fort Wainwright military base. The commercial off-the-shelf weather station sensor approach and basic tool stack was shared to the Teaching Through Technology alliance network for teachers and students to adopt and adapt for their own community projects. 

While visiting McCarthy in the summer of 2020, Larsen found a community partner that didn’t have an online weather data resource. He was able to deploy a weather station at the McCarthy airport. He developed the tools to stream the data to the internet and integrate it into a public weather dashboard for the community and pilots to check the status of wind near the McCarthy airport.

We should mention that Larsen is a Lathrop High School junior, and a member of UAF’s T3 Alliance. 

“Sam grokked how the weather station system worked and was given the hardware resources to build up documentation for other T3 students,” said Broderson.

 The UAF Teaching Through Technologies, or T3 Alliance, was a National Science Foundation grant-funded through the UAF Upward Bound program. It is now operated by a non-profit, Educating for Leadership, and has been working with various partners to continue its operation. Those partners include the Office of Naval Research, ACEP, Alaska Center ICE, and Alaska EPSCoR program. T3 Alliance uses emerging technologies to get low-income and first-generation-to-college high school students interested in science. 

“Sam brought a level of network security education to the process. As we installed these, districts needed to know that the [Raspberry] pi was safe and there was a network security plan,” said Adam Low, director of Alaska Upward Bound. “Sam was calling schools and helping network admins, students and teachers help set them up.”

Larsen is not eligible to participate in Upward Bound; however, he has been an instructor and mentor to the UB students and schools through the T3 Alliance.

Larsen will continue to work on ACEP innovative projects in the UAF T3 Makerspace, where he will develop a proof-of-concept data logger for a low-flow fuel meter that ACEP researchers would like to use for future research projects measuring fuel consumption and heating within homes. This opportunity to be a summer intern is a partnership between UAF Upward Bound and the T3 alliance non-profit partner Educating4Leadership.

The T3 UAF makerspace is part of a larger pipeline to develop local innovators. The makerspace at UAF will support satellite makerspaces embedded at high schools around Alaska. High school students at the T3 sites are given the opportunity to develop growth mindset, design Thinking and technology skills that they then apply to local community projects. 

The makerspace will host lab technicians familiar with the T3 curriculum and makespace tools. The technicians will provide support to the students and community projects and will be available to support UAF research projects. 

“We hope high school students will choose to continue their education and come to UAF for school, where the UAF T3 makerspace will offer a safe and familiar space for them to continue their development as users of the makerspace, be hired as lab technicians and grow as innovators,” added Broderson.