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  1. Makerspaces are a growing trend in engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education at both the university and K-12 levels. These spaces which, in theory, are characterized by a community of likeminded individuals interested in digital fabrication and innovative design, are argued to provide opportunities to foster the skills sets critical to the next generation of engineers and scientists. However, spaces for making are not new to the engineering curriculum as many engineering programs have well-established machine shops orbproject labs that students utilize to complete course projects. In this work-in-progress exploratory study, the authors evaluated early undergraduate students’ perceptions of two contrasting spaces, a contemporary makerspace and a traditional engineering shop. As part of an Introduction to Engineering course, students were asked to visit the two campus spaces, identify important equipment and policies they noticed in each space, and describe their perception of how the spaces were similar or different. Based on our initial findings, we speculate that access and safety issues in engineering shops may limit their use by early year engineering undergraduates. Alternatively, digital fabrication technologies and community culture in makerspaces can provide access to a hands-on prototyping and collaborative learning environment for early year engineeringmore »students.« less
  2. As the popularity of makerspaces in higher education continues to grow, we seek to understand how students perceive these spaces as tools to prepare them for future engineering careers. Introduced in engineering education in early 2000’s, makerspaces have the potential to foster development of 21st century and technical skills through hands-on constructionist learning. The core tenants of the maker mindset include: Growth Through Failure, Collaborative Learning, Creativity and Innovation, and Student Agency
  3. Makerspaces have become a rather common structure within engineering education programs. The spaces are used in a wide range of configurations but are typically intended to facilitate student collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking, essentially giving students the opportunity to learn 21st century skills and develop deeper understanding of the processes of engineering. Makerspace structure, layout, and use has been fairly well researched, yet the impact of makerspaces on student learning is understudied, somewhat per a lack of tools to measure student learning in these spaces. We developed a survey tool to assess undergraduate engineering students’ perceptions and learning in makerspaces, considering levels of students’ motivation, professional identity, engineering knowledge, and belongingness in the context of makerspaces. Our survey consists of multiple positively-phrased (supporting a condition) and some negatively-phrased (refuting a condition) survey items correlated to each of our four constructs. Our final survey contained 60 selected response items including demographic data. We vetted the instrument with an advisory panel for an additional level of validation and piloted the survey with undergraduate engineering students at two universities collecting completed responses from 196 participants. Our reliability analysis and additional statistical calculations revealed our tool was statistically sound and was effectively gatheringmore »the data we designed the instrument to measure.« less