The pinnacle of making
Anna Engelke has a passion for lifelong making that propels her to help Carolina faculty and students unleash their inner creativity at UNC-Chapel Hill’s makerspaces. It’s her love of making – and her commitment to sharing it with others – that makes Engelke a UNC Pinnacle Award winner.
April 18, 2022
Makerspaces are magical places, creative playgrounds for those who innovate on their own time, in their own way. And at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, you’ll find faculty and students tinkering away in makerspaces across campus seven days a week… making, learning, exploring and collaborating with fellow Tar Heels. Carolina’s Be a Maker (BeAM) makerspaces tie the UNC-Chapel Hill maker community together, offering spaces to design and make physical objects for education, research, entrepreneurship and even recreation.
On any given day, you’ll find lifelong maker Anna Engelke, BeAM’s educational program manager, working in one of UNC’s makerspaces as she develops and manages BeAM’s educational projects. These projects include faculty development programs to support the integration of design, making and the BeAM makerspaces into academic course curricula.
“Ever since I started at BeAM, I’ve been committed to growing my own tool literacy so that I can better develop our educational trainings and programs,” says Engelke. “BeAM offers free tool trainings and open access to tools for all UNC students, staff and faculty, which enables us to make our campus community more resilient, more tech-savvy and better at creatively solving real-world problems.”
Along with efforts of staff like Engelke, BeAM encourages collaboration across campus by offering open studios, training sessions, workshops, classes and group activities. All students and faculty are welcome to join the BeAM community – whether they just have an idea or are ready to design a prototype.
“When I talk to students in the makerspace, many of them tell me their first visit was because of a course project. Some admitted that if it weren’t for that project, they might not have tried using the makerspace tools,” says Engelke. “Makerspaces can be intimidating, but they are critical gateways to developing technical and professional skills. Integrating design and making into academic courses gives students permission to experiment with design and making, while also providing support and structure to help them succeed.”
Engelke’s role at BeAM challenges her each day – from managing BeAM’s trainings and events to supporting faculty with integrating the makerspaces into their courses. Recently, she received the Pinnacle Award, one of the 2022 UNC Peer Recognition Awards. Pinnacle awards are given to University staff who demonstrate leadership, vision and commitment to excellence, as well as a commitment to continuous learning through professional development.
“Anna is an essential part of our team and operation,” says Kenny Langley, director of BeAM. “From the excellent tool trainings she’s created with our staff to the thoughtful and comprehensive support she provides to UNC’s faculty and students, she’s very deserving of this award.”
“I was thrilled to receive this award, even more so because it came from my peers,” says Engelke. “The fact they took the time to nominate me, that they appreciate me as a part of our team, means so much. I have to give a shout-out to the BeAM team for being such a positive part of my job, especially our student staff program assistants and program specialists. They’re the most hardworking, creative people I know, and they remind me to keep thinking of new ways to make BeAM better. Every time I get to work on a project with our program specialists, it reminds me why I love working at BeAM – there’s just a collaborative, quick-thinking energy that’s unique to this group.”
A forever student of making, Engelke trains on and frequently uses all of the tools in the makerspace. She is also working on strategies for how to expand learning sciences research at BeAM, while pursuing her doctorate through NC State University’s Learning Design and Technology program.
“I’m proud of the fact that UNC has a unique makerspace model,” says Engelke. “Most universities either restrict their makerspaces to particular departments – like engineering or studio art. Or, if they’re open to everyone, they don’t offer direct access to industrial tools like our metal shop or our embroidery machine. This level of access to complex tools is an incredible resource – I wish it had been available when I was an undergraduate student at UNC.”
For more information about BeAM and how to get involved, visit beam.unc.edu.