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“There is a certain satisfaction from making something yourself and understanding how it works,” said Malia Gehan, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Associate in Dr. Todd Mockler’s Lab at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
Malia is a plant molecular biologist interested in the environmental stress responses in plants and is currently examining temperature stress in Brachypodium distachyon, a model grass for food and biofuel crops. Her research employs high-throughput phenotyping technologies, which led her to develop open-source plant trait extraction software, PlantCV, with her colleagues, Dr. Noah Fahlgren and Dr. Max Feldman.
In the fall of 2013, Malia and Noah recognized a need for low-cost plant phenotyping tools and software that would complement the Center’s Bellwether Phenotyping Facility. Together they launched the Danforth Center Maker Group, a forum for all members of the Center to explore constructing low-cost hardware and software engineering tools.
“The Maker Group was originally founded because we wanted to reduce costs and time on tedious tasks and increase the reproducibility, and the throughput of data for our research projects,” Gehan said. “The Group is really problem driven.”
By promoting custom engineering projects at the Center, the Maker Group serves as a significant source of cross discipline training to the postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, technicians and staff. More than 60% of the labs in the Center are involved in Maker activities, which also include education and outreach activities.
“We are excited and incredibly grateful that the Maker Group was so well received by employees and administrators at the Danforth Center. It includes not only scientific staff but people from IT and facilities, which brings a wider range of skills to the group,” Gehan said.
The Maker Movement is a growing trend with a global community of hobbyist and professional inventors, designers, engineers, artists, programmers, and tinkerers. Maker spaces are popping up across the country in libraries, museums, community centers, and schools—giving people of all ages access to mentorship, programs and tools like 3-D printers and scanners, laser cutters, microcontrollers and design software.
Learn more about the Danforth Center’s Maker Group on Thursday, July 16 at Venture Café from 6:00–7:00 P.M. where Malia will serve as a panelist at the Connecting Creativity and Science discussion. The panel will focus on the similarities between the scientific and creative processes as well as how science and creativity are connecting in educational classrooms and the science community. You can also visit the Danforth Center Maker Group’s website and follow them on Twitter.
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