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Rick Bradley’s Vision for Collaboration and Creativity: BeAM@Carmichael Makerspace


Rick Bradley, director of Administrative Services at Carolina Housing, has been a consistent presence within Carolina Housing for nearly three decades. Now preparing for retirement at the end of 2022, Bradley reflected on his role implementing the BeAM Makerspace in Carmichael Hall, one of his significant achievements during his time at UNC-Chapel Hill.

In 2015, Bradley and colleagues identified tremendous interest in creating a Makerspace in residence halls. Over the next two years through collaborative efforts across campus, Bradley worked with faculty, students, and administrators to develop and launch a Makerspace, BeAM@Carmichael. Two important partners, Rich Superfine, former chair of the department of applied physical sciences, and Allan Blattner, executive director of Carolina Housing, were instrumental in developing a strategic plan to find ways for residence halls to connect with academic partners across campus.

Rick Bradley, director of Administrative Services at Carolina Housing.
Bradley spearheaded the effort to develop the Carmichael Makerspace by joining the BeAM (Be A Maker) advisory committee and visiting Elon University to observe a Makerspace located within a residence hall on campus. To deepen understanding of student interest in a Makerspace, Bradley organized a group of UNC student volunteers who created mobile Maker carts featuring concepts of 3D printing, website design, robotics, sewing, and more. This effort revealed significant enthusiasm among students for hands-on experiential learning and a desire for that experience within a residence hall. “The Carmichael Makerspace promotes out of classroom learning within residential communities,” Bradley says. “There is a real value-add for students who see a residence hall as an engaging, educational opportunity where they can interact with peers and learn something at the same time.”

The creative environment of the Makerspace promotes cross-disciplinary interaction and collaboration, skills that are important both on and off campus. “The space allows students to not just rely on themselves to solve problems. Instead, they are able to find resources and assemble a team of people who can help them achieve success,” Bradley adds. The Makerspace has enjoyed several fruitful partnerships with organizations like Innovate Carolina and the Kenan-Flagler Entrepreneurship Center to bridge the concept of Making with entrepreneurial-minded students across campus. Bradley shares that a former Kenan-Flagler MBA student with his own business served three years as an entrepreneur-in-residence who mentored students in the Carmichael Makerspace to share his experiences with younger entrepreneurs.

An overarching goal of the Makerspace is to foster opportunities to learn from failures and improve strategies for future efforts. “High-achieving students expect perfection in all they do, and they may not succeed at the same level they thought they would initially,” Bradley says. “One of the most rewarding things is to see students overcome challenges and display resilience,” he adds. “In essence, the concept of Making allows you to never quit and try again if something doesn’t work. This iterative process of learning is a skill that we hope our students can improve upon.” He is also pleased to see students honing their technical abilities while expanding professional skills like teambuilding and time management skills. Makerspace staff members are always on hand to support student projects, provide feedback, and offer new strategies for success.

Although Bradley is concluding his time at Carolina, his legacy will continue to enhance the experiences of Makers. At the request of students, plans are in place to add a laser cutting room to the Carmichael Makerspace during the summer of 2023. Looking ahead, Bradley and partners in BeAM, Campus Recreation, and Carolina Housing are investigating opportunities to expand Makerspaces into outdoor locations on campus. Bradley explains that an outdoor Makerspace might feature an array of resources and activities like climbing walls, landscape design, and e-bike repair tools. Further, a garden with a nearby gourmet kitchen would allow students a “farm-to-table” experience and incorporate Making into culinary arts.

Bradley’s vision for uniting Makerspaces with residential life will transcend his tenure at Carolina. In the years to come, he imagines amplified cross-disciplinary efforts across campus. “By connecting undergraduates to Makerspaces and promoting cross-academic unit collaboration for students, we can better avoid university silos and tunnel vision. I am so appreciative that there are people on campus who see the benefit of this sort of collaboration, and I hope this continues.”

The Fall 2022 BeAM MakerFest will be held on Tuesday, November 29 from 1:30 to 3 pm in the Student Union to promote continued collaboration and creativity. The event provides students with the opportunity to share ideas, showcase prototypes from research or entrepreneurial efforts, and participate in competitions, mini-events, and hands-on Maker challenges. The MakerFest bolsters the mission of BeAM Makerspaces by encouraging students to execute cross-disciplinary work and leverage unique skillsets to accomplish a shared goal.