MakerLab partners with the Marketplace literacy project for USD 300,000 UI extension Grant

The MakerLab has partnered with Dr. Madhu Viswanathan, the lead on the Marketplace literacy project and the UI Extension office, and received a grant for USD 300,000, to create two new community based Makerlabs, in south Illinois and the west side of Chicago. This grant will help us implement an outreach program in Illinois that leverages our strengths in subsistence marketplace literacy and digital manufacturing. Enhancing marketplace literacy has been recognized as a key area within the economic development theme in the Chancellor’s Visioning Future Excellence program. The Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative within the College of Business has pioneered research, teaching and social initiatives for low-income, less-literate individuals around the world. Marketplace literacy is best coupled with specific livelihood skills, particularly in contexts of extreme constraints. This grant will allow us to couple such education with the forward-looking technology of digital manufacturing (i.e., 3D Printing). Individuals from impoverished regions would be trained to create marketplace products via 3D printing and other forms of digital making, based on our experience in operating the Illinois MakerLab, the world’s first 3D printing lab in a College of Business.

We will establish a marketplace literacy program and set up maker spaces in rural and urban locations across Illinois. We have UI Extension Unit 27 as a partner represented by Ronald Duncan, and Illinois SBDC representative Phiilip Fairweather at Bethel New Life in Chicago as implementation partners. Bethel New Life has space allocated for this project and is providing in-kind support for marketplace literacy curriculum collaboration and marketplace literacy training. This is a collaborative, change-oriented project, drawing expertise from across multiple disciplines for outreach into disadvantaged communities. We aim to empower members of these communities to participate in the marketplace by enhancing their “making” literacy.

Read more about the project at