As a technical and project-oriented blogger, I try to avoid trivial posts, but, seeing as both founders of NBitWonder call Purdue their alma mater, this seemed somewhat inescapable. On the way to campus this morning (I am currently a graduate student at Purdue University), I found this massive sign proudly plastered to the side of Armstrong Hall, the newest engineering building on campus…
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Much better than their last sign: “I AM NOT A TURKEY.”
I have mixed feelings about this. I think it’s interesting and significant that one of the leading engineering schools in the world is embracing the idea that we should be proud of *doing* the work of engineering, and that tinkering, hacking, dissecting and making are distinguishing characteristics of the best engineers. I completely agree.
On the other hand, I think its rather lame and dishonest for Purdue to latch on to the emergent ethos of egalitarian use of technology that they (as an institution) have not done much to explicitly promote. If Purdue was such a leader, they would have invested some of their prestige and capital and intellectual power into promoting a Maker attitude before it became cool.
When you have the resources and clout of a Purdue (or an MIT or a Stanford or a CMU or …) and you want to distinguish yourself, then do something bold. Take a risk. Lead the way. Purdue does that in many ways. But it strikes me as cheap and opportunistic to appropriate the Maker ethos in such a wholesale way, and to do so without at least a hat tip to the folks who have already done the work to inspire the concept of Makers.
Even more insidious is the idea is that "being a Maker" is what distinguishes engineers who are educated at Purdue. As if no one else has the chops. Give me a break. According to the
<a href="http://www.purdueexponent.org/pageScans/2010/10/14/issue.pdf"> October 14 article in the Purdue student paper</a>, the "Makers, All" campaign
“It is an attempt to say we want- to
stand out and differentiate ourselves from the crowd,”
Thompson said. “It is meant to provide a platform around
which everyone can rally and become brand ambassadors
for the University.”
I mean no disrespect to Purdue engineers and their Engineering School. However, its a bit much to choose "I am a Maker" as your brand, when that "brand" has already been established through the hard work of others. I would go further to say that even though they have the cool banners, Purdue engineering doesn’t have a monopoly on being a Maker.
And just to be clear, my comments are not about university x versus university y.
Well, duh. It’s obvious now that HTML in comments is not allowed.
Umm… I think you’re reading way too much into it. Purdue isn’t claiming a monopoly on being Makers. (i.e. The banner doesn’t say "We are _the_ Makers.") Likewise, I think the "crowd" referred to in the quote are universities in general, not just other engineering schools…
As a Purdue engineer, I can tell you there are plenty of Purdue grads contributing to the greater Maker movement; it’s not just "the hard work of others," as you put it. Besides, if you don’t want a very large group of highly-qualified folks latching onto "your" movement, are saying you’d rather that all of these folks just stay the heck away and not help promote it? Or are you afraid that by bringing more attention to the notion of "Maker" that Purdue is somehow scheming to steal it away from the "real" Makers? (…whoever that might be…)
And of course, there is also the obvious connection… If you didn’t know, Purdue folk are already known as BoilerMAKERS. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purdue_Boilermakers ) I think this is a clever extension of the brand the University established 100+ years before Make magazine existed. IMHO, it certainly beats running around calling yourself a "Boiler."