Justin Selig (‘17) Inspires Cornell’s Creative Spirit

Justin Selig

When Justin Selig was in second grade, he folded his first origami figurine. The power of creation inspired him, and he began attending weekly origami lessons at the Museum of Natural History. Years later, Selig’s spirit of making is still alive – so much so that he founded Cornell Make, an organization devoted to furthering Cornellians’ creative spirits.

When Selig entered Cornell, he quickly realized it was difficult to find facilities and cohorts to work on creative projects together. Cornell Make responds to this opportunity by offering “tools, spaces, and human resources to connect makers to makers.” Since Fall 2014, Selig has partnered with existing makerspaces around Cornell to educate students about the power of creating. Additionally, Cornell Make is rehabilitating spaces into makerspaces, including an art studio in Willard Straight Hall (formerly known as Slope Studio) and another space in Becker Hall. While many associate makerspaces with 3D printers and technology, Cornell Make’s spaces cover a wide range of creative expression. Selig is excited about cultivating a culture of creating at Cornell in a variety of forms.

Beyond providing spaces, Cornell Make offers the power of connecting makers to makers to facilitate projects. Cornell Make’s web development team is building a platform allowing people to post projects and find collaborators. When completed, it will facilitate any Cornell student searching for collaborators on a creative endeavor.

A space Cornell Make is rehabilitating, formerly known as Slope Studio

The primary way Cornell Make currently engages with the Cornell community is through its events. The group led a hardware hacking presentation at Big Red Hacks last fall and co-sponsored Creative Sprint, an exciting seven hour event introducing over one hundred students to the making process. Participants took to local streets, asking strangers about their challenges. Students returned to eHub, brainstormed, built prototypes from cardboard and tape, and then returned to the streets asking people what they thought of the prototypes.

Selig is looking forward to hosting more events on campus and in the Ithaca area at large. Currently, Cornell Make is planning a maker faire, expected to happen in April. This “large show and tell” will be open to students and community members to share their creations to a large audience. Selig and his team are also preparing to engage directly with the community by working with Maker State to offer educational workshops for children. This involves identifying talent in the Cornell Make team that would thrive teaching children, training them on teaching material, and dispatching them to schools.

Throughout the journey of creating Cornell Make, Selig sites a self-starting attitude as one of the key factors of success. “Opportunities don’t come to you, so you have to create opportunities,” he explains. It’s a lesson every entrepreneur knows well.