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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Student club makes tinkering fun

A group of students crowd around a table and make different types of art. NIU’s Makers Club offers a place for NIU students to use their creativity to develop different art projects as group and individually. (Courtesy of Chris English)

DeKALB – A club focused on hands-on creativity and collaboration encourages students to make something of their ideas. 

Founder Chris English, a graduate student majoring in mechanical engineering, started Makers Club last year after other clubs he explored were too narrowly focused. 

“I wanted to join a club that was about hands-on craft stuff, and a lot of the clubs are segmented into their own little niches,” English said. “I wanted something that was a melding of a bunch of stuff. Here, if you’re interested in 3D printing or costume design or ceramics, you can come to one club and have fun learning new skills.” 

English has been collaborating on creations since middle school. 

“In some classes, we would form groups and create a team name and stuff like that,” English said. “I would be one of the people who drew out the mascot, and as I’ve gone further in engineering, I like doing all the hands-on stuff and that’s how it’s continued to this point.” 

The group has dipped its toes in various projects from soap-making to glass-etching, robotics and crocheting. Group members are welcome to work on their individual projects or contribute to the semester’s main theme. 

“Last semester, our two big themes were costumes for Halloween and gifts for the winter season,” English said. “This semester, the theme is Cardboard Arcade. The first 30 minutes of our meetings focus on how to do this new thing. We teach people the skills to those big themes, and then they’re free to make what they want after that.”  

Materials for projects can get costly, especially when covering multiple projects. Makers Club relies on their creativity and university partnerships to help. 

“We’re partnered with NIU STEAM,” English said. “They have a lot of materials for their youth program, and by working with them, we’re able to access some of those materials. As we’ve become more recognized through SGA, we’ve started to purchase more materials through them.” 

English encourages everyone to try making something even if they feel they do not possess the necessary skills.  

“I think everyone should realize you can make stuff even if you think you aren’t good at a certain thing,” English said. “We’re trying to create a space where it’s OK to fail and hopefully we’ll help you learn how to do it correctly.” 

At the end of the day, English says it is all about community and experimentation. 

“That’s part of the fun; you learn from other people,” English said. “Even if you don’t think you would be a great maker, you will be. I’m still horrible at crocheting, but it’s still enjoyable to be in a group where we’re all making something. Even if it’s not through our club, try making something and find the joy in it.”  

The Makers Club meets 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Thursdays at 217 Normal Road in the library basement next to Einstein Bros. Bagels. Email Chris English at [email protected] for more information. 

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