Honoring Aaron Hoover

Starting in 2022, in honor of our dear friend and colleague Prof. Aaron Hoover, a thought leader for university makerspaces and founding principal of the Higher Education Makerspace Initiative, we designate the Keynote Address at the annual International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces as the Aaron Hoover Keynote Address.

Aaron Murdock Hoover died December 30, 2020, surrounded by an extraordinarily large amount of love. An avid everyday cyclist and fitness enthusiast, he was in the best shape of his life when he was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM stage IV) in April 2019 at age 41. Aaron survived this aggressive brain cancer for 20 months with grit and grace.  

In his dream job as a professor of mechanical engineering at Olin College outside Boston, Aaron helped refine the critical thinking skills — and fashion senses — of a generation of young engineers. He loved his work, finding deep satisfaction in the process of education as much as the product. A sign in his lab bore these characteristic instructions to students:
“1. Be excellent to each other. 2. Take the reins. 3. Kick ass. 4. Deliver value. 5. Have fun.”

Aaron was a builder and a maker, from the phone circuit he rewired at age six to the bikes he built in college to his recent explorations in high-end woodworking. In his professional life, he sought to understand how the principles underlying biological systems can yield insights that improve engineered systems. His career began with bio-inspired robotic locomotion and evolved to engage the nature of learning itself. Aaron read widely, spoke several languages and maintained a critical focus on the human side of engineering and design, teaching Olin’s foundational Principles of Engineering course every year. He was particularly interested in the intersections of creativity, craft, and design. He is remembered by his colleagues for so many things, including his generosity, teamwork and peer mentorship. He was a co-founder and principal member of the Higher Education Makerspace Initiative.

Aaron’s friends called him “Hoov.” He had an eye for beauty, an irreverent wit, and a charming humility rare in someone so accomplished. He loved music, art and modern design. His excellent sense of humor was matched only by his utter seriousness about the things that mattered: his family, meaningful work, and the proper method, tools and materials to grind and brew coffee. 

When he was diagnosed with GBM, Aaron dove into learning everything he could about the disease and its treatment. He blogged his experiences at, and was an active participant in Brain Tumor Social Media (#btsm) on his Twitter account @amhoov. He made good friends there, and this remarkable community brought him great comfort as brain cancer took more from him. 

He was growing in new directions informed by his diagnosis when he passed away peacefully on December 30, 2020, leaving a lanky Aaron-shaped hole in the lives of his wife Robin, his son Little R, his mother Kathy, his sister Melissa, a large extended Murdock family, and hundreds of friends, colleagues and current and former students. 

The Higher Education Makerspaces Initiatives (HEMI) is a collaborative of leading universities focused on solving the challenges of academic makerspaces and making their combined learnings available to others. Case Western Reserve University, Georgia Tech, MIT, Olin College, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, and Yale University are HEMI members. HEMI is the organizing body for the International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces and the soon-to-be published International Journal for Academic Makerspaces and Making.