Make. Learn. Inspire. Three things Nil Santana excels and thrives in.
Santana has been teaching at ACU for 18 years as an associate professor of Art and Design, and was director of the Maker Lab for five years. This year, he transitioned to associate director, focusing more on collaborations with departments and campus development.
The largest project the Santana has participated in is the renovation of the Journalism and Mass Communication broadcast studio.
Over the summer, Santana worked four-five hours every day to gut, repaint and rebuild the inside of the studio. It took three weeks for him to repaint the studio black and six weeks to build the set.
The team, all JMC alumni, Santana, Nathan Gibbs, Director of KACU, Ben Mankin, founder and CEO of Mankin Media, pulled ideas from high-dollar production sets from professional channels such as NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox. Santana built a three-dimensional model and began building the set with no form of measurement.
The only measurements Santana used for the set were the overall width and length.
“I started building the main components of the set, maintaining a visual proportion established on the three-dimensional model, but there were no specific dimensions or drawings,” Santana said. “Each time I built a corner piece or centerpiece I’d look at the model and visually compare to it.”
Through the building process, Santana said each texture had to be tested to make sure the light would hit each one, but they wanted to make sure it had depth and looked professional.
“All the decision-making happened based on what it looked like on camera,” Santana said.
The set was designed with flexibility in mind, allowing all three sections – the left and right corners, and the centerpiece – to be moved.
“Just last weekend we came by to make sure the lights were still working and it’s always fun to see people reacting to the lights and playing with them,” Santana said.
In January, Reeves and Santana went to New York to receive the International Data Corporation Smart Cities North America Awards for the project. ACU was a co-winner for the education category and won for its innovation using internet and technology.
This semester, Santana is teaching an occupational therapy class, integrating design thinking, creativity and problem-solving.
“Those moments that we’ve had, they are very meaningful to our experiences,” Santana said. “It is very transformative to teach design to nontraditional art students. Seeing the quality of thinking in solutions that come out of that when they learn the methodology in the products they have been able to develop, they can really change someone’s life.”
His next project is to renovate an upright player piano to connect to phones. Santana will replace the old air valves with computer-controlled actuators but still maintain the capability to play with the standard keys. He said he plans to have it ready by Maker Fest in the Spring.
“Someone gave me an old piano a couple of years ago, and since that day I wanted to work on it, make it a fun project,” Santana said. “I think the project will be another great example of using creativity and ingenuity combined with programming and engineering. I can’t wait to see – and hear – it playing.”
Santana said one of his goals is to collaborate with every department on campus.
“I believe in collaboration, multidisciplinary collaborations and projects,” Santana said. “I think how disciplines can inform each other, how art can form science and vice versa. The collaborative nature of the Maker Lab is what makes the Maker Lab such a space. The ethos of Maker Lab is collaboration.”
See how Santana implemented renovations to the Maker Lab: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FhZWoj-VAM