Making the most of makerspaces

professors use makerspace

When John Kuykendall began his tenure as the dean of the University of Indianapolis School of Education, the idea of housing a makerspace on campus had been in development for several years. Launching the School of Education makerspace would become one of Kuykendall’s priorities during his first year. 

The School of Education makerspace was inspired by the notion that today’s teachers must have the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare PK-12 students for an innovation-driven economy. Makerspaces compel teachers to deliver content through “learning by doing,” immersing students in real-world projects that foster deep learning and understanding. A makerspace is a space where students can gather to create, invent and learn. Education makerspaces are housed on campus and allow people to share resources and collaborate and allow teachers to provide a “lab” where they can apply the lessons that are already occurring within the classroom. They combine education with a “do it yourself” strategy.

Last fall, the School of Education’s makerspace began operation, with programming that largely focuses on STEM fields, but is available to use in any way that professors and students can find to fit the curriculum. Ultimately the makerspace will help equip teachers with new skill sets that enable complex thinking, problem-solving, designing, collaborating, communicating and creating for today’s 21st-century student. 


“It was a connected effort within the University to get all this done,” Kuykendall said. He noted the efforts of Deb Sachs, assistant professor of education, who helped coordinate funding from a STEM education grant.

The University’s makerspace was aided in design by Indianapolis-based 1stMakerSpace, which builds and sustains in-school makerspaces. They partner with school districts to provide students with standards-based hands-on learning experiences to complement classroom learning strategies. The goal of these makerspaces is to inspire an authentic, rigorous and motivational environment by fostering creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

“1stMakerSpace challenged us to come up with ideas how the makerspace could be used in all of the courses that we teach,” Kuykendall said. “We don’t want to pigeonhole the faculty and think that the pedagogy has to be centered around the sciences. As more faculty learn how to use it, they can begin to use it more and more often for a variety of lessons.” 

The makerspace provides an added educational layer where students can actually manipulate a problem with their hands and eyes rather than only trying to visualize a solution. 

“We’re very excited about it. It will allow students to see, apply and practice what they’re learning,” Kuykendall said. “There’s often more than one way to solve a problem. Makerspaces allow the open creativity to do that. They allow for more communication and can become collaborative pieces of learning.”

professors use makerspace

Kuykendall said housing a makerspace within the School of Education puts UIndy “ahead of the game” in offering students more resources to be successful should they end up in a school system that utilizes makerspaces.

Even though the makerspace on campus is still in its beginning stages, Kuykendall is already focused on ways in which the program will grow. “We want to continue to develop it year after year and keep growing the tools inside the space,” he said, “As more students and faculty use it that will help us envision how it will grow.” Kuykendall also envisions hosting workshops and professional development opportunities for local schools.

“Ultimately, we want programming that will help our students to interact with their future students,” he said.

Inquiries about the availability of the makerspace can be directed to School of Education Graduate Programs Administrative Assistant Rhonda Helterbrand ( who is in charge of the scheduling and organization and management of the makerspace.

Beethoven’s birthday celebration sparks UIndy Art & Design creativity

Beethoven Sculpture at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven Sculpture at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

A familiar face is on display at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis, thanks to the hard work and collaboration of University of Indianapolis faculty and students. The Department of Art & Design was invited to create a hanging sculpture for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Beethoven Series.

The work of art was constructed in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday and the ISO’s accompanying yearlong concert series, featuring his major works and newly commissioned pieces. UIndy’s Art & Design department was recommended to the ISO by Laura Irmer ’06 (liberal studies) ’08 (M.A., English), a member of their staff who also teaches as an adjunct in the Department of English and the piece was designed and installed by James Viewegh, professor and department chair, and assistant professors Nathaniel Foley and Katherine Fries. They were given complete artistic freedom and chose to use a well-known portrait of Beethoven for the inspiration behind the sculpture.

Viewegh viewed the project as “a great opportunity for UIndy and the Department of Art & Design to partner with community organizations to create unique works of art for the public.” He went on to state that “projects like this provide Art & Design a venue to demonstrate the creative talent of our faculty and students and the community partner with cool artwork.”

This artwork adds to the Department of Art & Design’s portfolio of collaborations that extend the University’s impact on the city’s lively art scene. The River Fish sculpture, also constructed by Viewegh and Foley, these projects showcase  the ways UIndy faculty and students are teaming up with the surrounding community to make a difference and celebrate Indianapolis through art and design.

UIndy faculty member treats “So You Think You Can Dance” performers


When the stars of So You Think You Can Dance Live rolled into Indianapolis last week, UIndy’s Dr. Paul Salamh, assistant professor in the Krannert School of Physical Therapy, was waiting for them. No, he’s not a SYTYCD super-fan. Salamh was onsite as a healthcare professional, available to treat any injuries the dancers came in with.

“The performers do multiple shows a week, so they often come in with injuries or even just “maintenance” needs,” said Salamh, who has been the go-to physical therapist for the tour stop in Indianapolis for three years. “But its show business and the show must go on.”

He was recruited for the role by the show’s manager who learned about Salamh’s previous work with athletes. At the Old National Center where the show was held, each year Salamh is given a large dressing room so he has space to treat the dancers. He brings along any supplies he thinks he might need. In order to prepare, the show’s manager gives him a heads up of what to expect a few days before the cast and crew arrive in Indianapolis.

“The day of the show, the lead dancer usually briefs me about what’s going on with everyone,” Salamh said. “Sometimes they are reluctant to come in for treatment, but usually the lead dancer encourages them.”

He spends up to five hours treating members of the 10-person cast. This year’s cast included Season 16’s Top 10 including Anna Linstruth, Benjamin Castro, Bailey Munoz, Eddie Hoyt, Ezra Sosa, Gino Cosculluela, Madison Jordan, Mariah Russell, Sophie Pittman and Stephanie Sosa plus All-Stars Cyrus Spencer and Lauren Froderman.

Before being contacted by the SYTYCD team, Salamh had never actually seen the show. However, since then he does admit to following the show a little more closely, “but don’t tell anyone,” he laughed.

Savannah Phipps ’21 (biology) presents at ESA conference

Savannah Phipps ’21 (biology) recently gave an oral presentation of her research at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting in Louisville, KY.  ESA is the largest and most prominent disciplinary society of ecology, the study of the interactions of organisms with each other and their environments.  The ESA annual meeting hosts 5000-6000 attendees each year mostly from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and various countries of South America, Europe, and Asia.
The research study sought to determine if differences in ploidy (i.e., the number of genome copies in their cells) between individuals of Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) caused differences in phenotype and reproduction.  Diploid individuals (with two genome copies per cell) were smaller in leaf and flower measures but had greater reproduction than triploid individuals (with three genome copies per cell).  No individuals of hybrid ploidy, which theoretically are possible, have been found, suggesting a barrier to diploid-triploid reproduction.  Investigations of habitat distribution, flower development, and pollinator behavior suggest that gamete incompatibility or hybrid inviability prevent diploid-triploid hybridization.
Savannah’s research and presentation were supported by the Indiana Academy of Science, UIndy’s Research Fellows Program, a Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences Student Career Readiness and Leadership grant, the Office of the Provost, and her research advisor Dr. Daniel Scholes (assistant professor, biology).  The study was conducted in Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

Sidekicks kicking down the door


Would Sherlock Holmes have been the world’s greatest detective without Dr. Watson? Could Batman keep Gotham City safe without Robin? Could Frodo have made it to Mt. Doom without Sam? Could the Avengers have stopped Thanos without the help of countless sidekicks along the way like Falcon, Bucky, Iron Patriot and Wong?

Despite the fact that sidekicks have played an integral role for many of pop culture’s most famous heroes, they have remained underdeveloped in literary and critical study. University of Indianapolis assistant professor of English Stephen Zimmerly has examined how the role of the sidekick is ever-expanding in modern media in his new book “The Sidekick Comes of Age: How Young Adult Literature is Shifting the Sidekick Paradigm.”

For Zimmerly, this is a passion that started early in life. “I remember that even as a kid, I would always pretend to be Robin, not Batman,” he said. “From a professional standpoint, I became interested in sidekick characters when I realized that sidekicks very seldom received any focused attention as the main subjects of literary study.

“When it suited their purposes, scholars would mention or use sidekicks, but always as a means to illustrate some larger issue, and the sidekick would exist as a colorful footnote.”

Zimmerly,_Steve (1)Zimmerly has noted that young adult literature has embraced the sidekick – recognizing the way the character can reflect the importance of growth and finding one’s place in the world. In this type of literature, authors are finding ways to add complexity to sidekick characterization. Tactics used to accomplish this include letting sidekicks “evolve” over the course of multiple books or perhaps even using parallel novels telling the story from the sidekick’s perspective. 

A specific story-type gaining traction in young adult literature right now is the superhero sidekick who tells the story from his or her point of view. These books often explain life as a sidekick, but also show how even potentially-superpowered teens experience ordinary teenage difficulties. “Very often, sidekicks are also on the cusp of moving from the ‘passenger seat’ to the ‘driver’s seat,’” Zimmerly explains, “just like the teenagers reading the books who face leaving home for the first time are on the cusp of independence.

Learn more about the University of Indianapolis Department of English.

“Because many sidekicks are young adults, it makes perfect sense for young adult fiction to tell these kinds of stories.” 

So what is the appeal of the sidekick? What leads authors and their readers to want to explore how sidekicks fit in their narratives? Zimmerly has a theory. “It is almost easier to perceive ourselves as the sidekicks,” he says. “Maybe we’re not the strongest, or the fastest, or the smartest – and usually the sidekick isn’t either.”

Giving the readers the ability to place themselves in the story is how the sidekick was first utilized in comic books. Again, because most sidekicks were far younger than the main characters, it gave younger readers someone their own age to relate to.

Zimmerly sees young adult literature as the ideal testing ground to explore new ways to write and challenge norms. “Young adult fiction has historically given its authors a lot of freedom in what they write and how they write it,” he said. “These authors can play with any number of conventions more easily and with more freedom than an author writing for more conventional, adult audiences.”

As young adult literature continues to grow in popularity, more and more of these stories will likely be told, which will continue a growing emphasis on characteristically complex sidekick characters. For more information on Zimmerly’s book “The Sidekick Comes of Age: How Young Adult Literature is Shifting the Sidekick Paradigm,” click here.

University of Indianapolis study points to positive impact of father-child play

Fathers who play with their young children are making an impact that lasts well beyond childhood, a new study from the University of Indianapolis has found.

The study, “Father-child play, child emotional dysregulation, and adolescent internalizing symptoms: A longitudinal multiple mediation analysis,” was published in Development & Psychopathology’s December 2018 edition. Jenifer Gregory ’17 (Psy.D., clinical psychology) ’14 (M.A., clinical psychology) authored the paper, with University of Indianapolis faculty Katie Kivisto and Neil Perdue as co-authors, along with David Estell of Indiana University. The paper was based on Gregory’s doctoral dissertation and is her first research publication in a scientific journal.

Jenifer Gregory

Jenifer Gregory

Gregory, who is now in private practice as a clinical psychologist at Continuum: Mental Health & Wellness in Indianapolis, said the research supports that “positive and supportive father-child relationships are very important for healthy child development.”

One way to measure those relationships is by the quality of father-child interactions during play time. The researchers found that children who have fathers who play with them “in a manner that is sensitive, supportive, emotionally attuned, attentive and challenging without being overstimulating are more likely to learn how to effectively self-regulate or cope with their emotions,” Gregory explained. This finding was true even after researchers accounted for factors like family income and quality of the mother-child relationship.

Father-child play also helps with long-term emotional growth, the study found, with the quality of those interactions predicting kids’ positive development through adolescence.

“The kids who had better quality play with their dads in first grade were better at emotion regulation in third grade and had less depression as 15-year-olds,” Kivisto said.

The study pulled data from a national data set of early childcare and youth development, commissioned by National Institute of Child Health and Development and conducted at various sites throughout the country.

“Based on our findings, fathers in particular (and parents in general) should encourage and engage in this type of positive, child-centered and child-directed play in order to support children’s emotional development,” Gregory said.

With state and national initiatives aimed at getting fathers more involved with their children, Kivisto said the research can be useful for agencies and community support networks that provide parenting advice.

Katie Kivisto

Katie Kivisto

“What dads are doing is making an impact and shaping kids’ development. We want to remind them that play is really important, and goes hand-in-hand with meeting basic needs and discipline,” Kivisto said.

Kivisto’s clinical and research background in parent-child attachment and emotional regulation development matched Gregory’s academic interests as she pursued a dissertation topic. Kivisto connected Gregory to Neil Perdue, associate professor of psychology, vice president and chief operating officer, to gain access to a database that proved crucial to the research.

“As we looked through the data that had become available to us, it became clear that we should utilize the study’s observations of father-child play as a measure of relationship quality because this type of observation is so rarely utilized,” Gregory said.

Gregory said her coursework, research and practicum training at UIndy prepared her for her current work with children and families.

“It guides my interventions with families in that I strive to involve parents, and particularly fathers, in the process of working with children. I emphasize the importance of the type of child-centered, child-directed, sensitive and supportive play that we found to be so important for child emotional development,” she said.

Kivisto points out that the sample used in the study happened to involve biological fathers, but the researchers are respectful of the fact that not every family has a biological father involved. The key takeaway for parents is to make sure that they take the time to play with children on a regular basis.

“Parents can feel stressed by the idea of adding one more thing to their to-do list,” Kivisto noted, “But research shows that even 5-10 minutes a day of this kind of play can improve child behavior and wellbeing.”

Written by Sara Galer, University of Indianapolis communications manager.


Doctorate student Rebecca McCormic publishes in peer-reviewed journal

Rebecca McCormicSecond-year doctorate student Rebecca McCormic ‘22 recently published an article as first author in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The article, “‘Me too’ decision: An analog study of therapist self-disclosure of psychological problems,” is based on her thesis.

McCormic’s research topic is self-disclosure, meaning how much a therapist should share about their personal experience with a problem. According to McCormic, the results of her study indicated that participants thought better of therapists when that therapist shared that they had a similar experience. Specifically, the level of disclosure most favored included the fact that the therapist had struggled with a similar issue and shared symptoms they had experienced.

McCormic is now working on a dissertation that focuses on improving the relationship between clients from multicultural backgrounds and therapists who are white. This is being done with the help of Dr. Michael Poulakis, assistant professor in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, who said McCormic is “really one of our best PsyD students.”

McCormic is also completing the first year of a practicum at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Marion, Indiana.

“I have done therapeutic work with veterans in the acute psych department, the residential substance abuse department, and the outpatient clinic for those struggling with severe mental illness. This typically involves one on one sessions, group therapy, or treatment planning meetings. Serving those that have served our country has been personally rewarding, since I have many family members who are veterans,” she explained.

McCormic says she is excited to continue her growth and development as a clinician and researcher at UIndy.

“I have many areas of interest, but right now I’m interested in ethical gray areas, multicultural support, improving patient/client care, and education,” she said.


Samantha Meigs participates in international College of Extraordinary Experiences

CollegeofExtraordinary500A 14th-century castle in Poland recently served as the backdrop for a unique conference with an intriguing name: The College of Extraordinary Experiences. Samantha Meigs, chair of the University of Indianapolis Department of Experience Design, was one of just 80 high-level experience designers to attend the peer-reviewed conference.

The College of Extraordinary Experiences is built on Experience Design techniques, with a focus on creating experiences that participants can use in their own professional settings, whether they are an event designer, a CEO or a filmmaker. Activities take place throughout the castle – in the dungeons, tower, secret passageways and courtyards, with a focus on immersive, physical world experiences.

“This conference was absolutely like no other that I have ever attended!” Meigs said. “You begin to get an idea of just how different when the bus picks you up at the airport to go to the castle. You are met by a group of goblins who make sure your name is on The List.”

After being sorted into “houses” à la Harry Potter, participants implement various design challenges, which are then prototyped to other participants. Meigs provided an experiential presentation on her “how to be a pirate” class and, as a member of the House of Engagement, created an experience based on the “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell.

Learn more about UIndy’s Experience Design Program

Late night pop-ups throughout the castle included magic shows in the dungeon, a fire dancing performance in the courtyard, storytelling around a bonfire and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the Knight’s Hall. Participants had to rely on networking to find out what was happening and where each event would take place.

Samantha Meigs

Samantha Meigs

While Meigs was already familiar with the key concepts of co-creation, flexible focus and rapid prototyping, she said, “seeing the extent and types of settings in which these were demonstrated gave me a lot of new ideas for classes and a framework that is reasonably easy to explain to students. Immediately after I got back, we started intensive rapid prototyping for all the events we are doing this semester.”

Meigs said the enthusiasm she encountered at the conference is another example of the growing significance of experience design. As scholars have noted a shift from the service industry to the experience economy, the field of experience design is gaining steam. Meigs said experience design delivers the experiential component of education or entertainment that an increasing number of people seem to crave.

“There’s just a sense of exuberance of how the field is growing and how it is valued globally. It was immensely exciting to learn about what the other experience designers are doing, and interestingly, to note that many of them already knew about our UIndy program!” she said.

Meigs hopes that experience design students can appreciate the growing recognition of the field.

“The sheer experience of seeing and interacting with this collection of people who all identify themselves as experience designers was just amazing. It is so clearly a defined field, with shared theories and methods, with growing applicability across many industries. I hope I can use my experiences at this phenomenal conference to help students to see this!”

Related: UIndy Experience Design Program gains worldwide attention

Written by Sara Galer, Communications Manager, University of Indianapolis. Contact with your campus news.

Greta Pennell pursues study of toy design in opportunities around the globe

Greta Pennell and her husband Jim Pennell, professor of sociology, presented a paper at the International Toy Research Association (ITRA) World Congress in Paris, France in 2018.

Greta Pennell at the International Toy Research Association (ITRA) World Congress in Paris, France in 2018.

Greta Pennell, professor of teacher education at the University of Indianapolis, has devoted her life’s work to the service of children. That focus, combined with a passionate commitment to service-learning, drives her research and teaching, and has inspired her to pursue professional development opportunities around the world.

Pennell was selected to participate in the 18th International Symposium, Workshop and Exhibition on Toy Design and Inclusive Play in Berlin, Germany, in January 2019.

Pennell also was recently honored with a research fellowship at The Strong National Museum of Play and was elected vice president of the International Toy Research Association at the World Congress in Paris, France, during the summer of 2018, where she presented a paper with her husband Jim Pennell, professor of sociology. In August 2018, she was honored with the Teaching in the Core Award at the Faculty-Staff Institute for her first-year seminar, “Doing Gender in Toyland,” where she uses her expertise on gender identity, toy advertising and conceptual change processes to model the research process for students.

Pennell will be attending the Berlin symposium for the first time, and is one of just 20 participants selected to join a worldwide network of scholars, designers and educators dedicated to toy design and inclusive play.  

“The opportunity to work closely with such a diverse, imaginative and interdisciplinary team and to be part of a UNESCO-sponsored project is truly exciting,” said Pennell, who expressed gratitude to the the Sabbatical and Grants Committee for awarding her a sabbatical for the 2018-19 academic year.  

Through her work at the Berlin symposium, Pennell will focus on expanding her understanding of inclusive education, play and toys from intergenerational, intercultural and global perspectives. With her newly-gained insights, Pennell plans to develop new strategies to use playful learning in her teaching with pre- and in-service educators, including a new course planned for fall 2019 entitled “Developing Human Potential” as well as her “Doing Gender in Toyland” seminar.  

“I expect that I will be better able to support and foster my UIndy students’ ability to incorporate this kind of approach in their own classrooms and empower them to become creators and designers dedicated to expanding inclusive play and learning opportunities for all students and families, regardless of their ability status,” Pennell explained.

Students are already noting the benefits of Pennell’s approach to the first-year seminar. Kaitlyn Betz ’19 (exercise science) said the class made a huge impact on her outlook of freshman year.

“Many of my other courses were very cut-and-dry textbook definition courses. This FYS class allowed me to think outside of the box and gave me multiple opportunities to incorporate my knowledge learned outside of the classroom,” Betz said. She explained an assignment to visit a toy store to examine how girls’ and boys’ toys were marketed differently.

Pennell explained that as cultural artifacts, toys are imbued with symbolic content and meaning. “If play is the business of childhood, then toys, as one of the most ubiquitous aspects of children’s lives, serve as tools of the trade, helping socialize children into future roles,” she said.

Even small details can send powerful messages about what is and isn’t possible or appropriate depending on a child’s gender, age, nationality, race or ability status, Pennell noted. “This is why toy design that expands opportunities and possibilities, opens doors to new worlds and allows children to direct their own play is critically important.

Written by Sara Galer, Communications Manager, University of Indianapolis. Contact with your campus news.

Faculty-student collaboration sheds light on DNA forensic techniques

Krista Latham

Krista Latham

Krista Latham, associate professor of biology and anthropology, and Jessica Miller ’19 (M.S., human biology), recently published a paper on advances in the forensic sciences. Latham is director of the University of Indianapolis Human Identification Center, which assists coroners throughout the country in identifying human remains. Latham’s work in identifying migrants who died while crossing the southern U.S. border has been recognized nationally.

“DNA recovery and analysis from skeletal material in modern forensic contexts” was published in Forensic Sciences Research in October 2018. Latham explained that the article “discusses developments in forensic genetics and focuses specifically on obtaining and analyzing DNA from human skeletal remains, as well as improvements in utilizing DNA for identification purposes.”

Jessica Miller ’19

Jessica Miller ’19

“Advances in DNA research have allowed for smaller quantities of  DNA to be analyzed,” Miller said. “This will ultimately lead to more identifications.  The article also discusses different databases that are available for comparisons of DNA from unidentified individuals to families of the missing.”

The faculty-student collaboration involved research on the newest forensic DNA technologies and collecting literature on the topic.

“Dr. Latham and I met weekly to discuss the material and work on the article. This included revising multiple drafts, creating a strong collaboration between the both of us that generated some great discussions, and inspiration that lead to my thesis research project on DNA transfer,” Miller said.

“It was a great experience working with Jessica on this publication,” Latham added. “A true benefit of the small program sizes at UIndy is the ability to work closely with students on research projects, presentations and publications that can have big impacts on the field of forensic science.”

Following graduation, Miller plans to develop her forensic and scientific skills by working in the local medicolegal community on death investigations, and hopes to pursue a doctorate in anthropology. She is grateful for the support of biology faculty.

“Dr. Latham and other human biology faculty have been very generous with their time and have always been present and active in my studies. They provide and supervise many extracurricular activities that make this program unique, like the ability to conduct research that I can present at conferences, the opportunities to publish in scientific journals and the ability to participate in forensic work through the Human Identification Center.”

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