South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

Three Decades of Higher Education Excellence Through Collaboration

SouthWorks MakerLab Network 2016

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SMHEC and its higher education institution members have collaborated with Southland business leaders, economic development entities, and municipalities to create SouthWorks MakerLab Network- a network of makerspaces covering the Chicago Southland region.

At SouthWorks MakerLabs, students and the community can access new and  traditional tools of making physical and electronics objects- from 3D printers to welding equipment- and learn new skills through workshops and support from other makers. Several of our community colleges are also making their sophisticated manufacturing and electronics labs available to the maker community.

SouthWorks MakerLab Network objectives:

  • Spur a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship
    • MakerLabs jumpstart an environment of innovation and provide potential creators and innovators ready access to tools and training that had not been accessible in the past.
    • We offer a Maker Entrepreneurship Program for those who want to build a business around their physical product.
    • We are the official Chicago region provider of the Craft Entrepreneurship Program for those who wish to sell their handcrafted goods.
    • Provide tinkerers and artisans with additional tools and outlets for their creativity.
  • Expand the number of students choosing STEAM careers and provide them needed skills
    • Achieve improved learning outcomes through making activities.
    • Through hands-on learning on projects of their own interest, convince more students of their STEAM capabilities and interest them in pursuing such careers.
    • In particular, create access and support for underserved/under-represented populations.
  • Build and enhance the next generation of our region's manufacturing workforce
    • Educate and excite students and parents about the new manufacturing environment and its viability as a rewarding career choice.
    • Provide exposure to new technologies.
    • Provide important skillsets beyond machine operation.
  • Ensure that our entire workforce develops the critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity which making fosters
    • Develop making as an integral prt of the education process, not just for manufacturing and engineering students.
  • Provide services to support local manufacturing
    • Provide access to new technoogies.
    • Provide prototyping services.
    • Provide more industry access to our students and instructors.
  • Provide a local connection to the critical National Network of Manufacturing Innovation in Chicago, Detroit, and Ohio which directly impact our region’s industry clusters.


Ten of SMHEC’s members have pledged to put MakerLabs on their campuses, and our mission is to provide support to others so that our region benefits from and becomes known for its Maker workforce- a workforce with the technical and soft skills that Making develops.

 To date, 6 MakerLabs have opened.


Open to the Public:

SouthWorks MakerLab Prairie State College

SouthWorks MakerLab Park Forest website

                              Park Forest Workshop Meetup

SouthWorks MakerLab South Suburban College

MakerLab at Joliet Junior Collegege

Maker Lab at Kankakee Community College

Students Only:

Illinois Tech IdeaShop

Lewis University MakerLab


Additional Resources:

SouthWorks Brochure

Original SouthWorks concept paper