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  1. While advances have been made in studying engineering design learning in the classroom, to date, such advances have not addressed hands-on, real-world learning experiences in university makerspaces. Our particular interest was how such spaces support women engineers as designers, learners, makers, and community members. To investigate this, we initially completed two qualitative interview studies: (1) a three-series in-depth phenomenologically based interview methodology with five women students and (2) a targeted, single interview protocol with 15 women students. The in-depth interviews were analyzed using grounded theory techniques and coding methods as a means to develop a typology. To explore the broader applicability of the findings, 19 additional interviews (five women and five men at Big City U.; four women and five men at Comprehensive U.) were also completed. Overall, makerspaces are confirmed to help provide women students with a diverse skillset that engages design, manufacturing, cultural knowledge, failure, collaboration, confidence, resilience, communication management, and ingenuity. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 18, 2024
  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract An academic makerspace, home to tools and people dedicated to facilitating and inspiring a making culture, is characterized by openness, creativity, learning, design, and community. This nontraditional learning environment has found an immense increase in popularity and investment in the last decade. Further, makerspaces have been shown to be highly gendered, privileging men's and masculine understandings of making. The spike in popularity warrants deeper analysis, examining the value of these spaces for women and if learning is occurring in these spaces, specifically at higher education institutions. We implemented a phenomenologically based interviewing process to capture the making experiences of 20 women students, recruited through purposive and snowball sampling. By eliciting the narratives of women students, we captured how making, designing, and creating evolved through gendered experiences in the university makerspace. Each interview was transcribed and resulted in around 868 pages of single-spaced text transcriptions. The data were analyzed through multiple cycles of open and axial coding for common themes and patterns, where makerspaces create a culture of learning, facilitate students’ design journey, and form a laboratory for creativity. These themes forwarded the creation of a learning model that showcases how design and learning interact in the makerspace. This work demonstrates that women students are engaging learning and inspiration; developing confidence and resilience; and learning how to work with others and collaborate. 
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  3. Recognizing the value of engagement in learning, recent engineering education initiatives have worked to encourage all types of students to pursue engineering while also facilitating the construction of makerspaces on university campuses. Makerspaces have the potential to engage a broader range of students by providing unique and personalized pathways into engineering. While this aims to improve the quality of an engineer’s education, the reality settles in when we begin to question whether these makerspaces are, in fact, encouraging learning in engineering for all types of students. In this work, we focus on investigating how a university makerspace affords learning for female students. We implemented an in-depth phenomenologically based interviewing approach which involved a series of three 90-minute semi-structured interviews with six highly engaged female undergraduate students involved in different makerspaces at a single university. The purpose of these interviews was to engage the students in their experiences with the makerspaces and the projects that they work on in this space, so as to inform how these spaces afford learning, specifically the impact on female student learning. All interviews were conducted by the same female graduate student. This work focuses on the second interviews of two females who had student worker roles in their respective makerspaces on campus. All of the interviews for these two females were transcribed resulting in 180 pages of single-spaced transcriptions, and the second interviews were analyzed through two phases of qualitative data analysis. Types of learning emerged in multiple forms and are presented via case studies of each female participant. For case one, these types of learning include machines learning, social learning, design learning, and self-learning. In the second case, the types of learning are tool learning, resourceful learning, space learning, and management learning. These types of learning are then further discussed according to engineering education pedagogy and implications. Makerspaces are often labeled as “open, learning environments,” and this work demonstrates how these spaces facilitate unique forms of learning that engage these women in the makerspace. 
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  4. Makerspaces have observed and speculated benefits for the students who frequent them. For example, previous studies have found that students who are involved in their campus’s makerspace tend to be more confident and less anxious when conducting engineering design tasks while gaining hands-on experience with machinery not obtained in their coursework. Recognizing the potential benefits of academic makerspaces, we aimed to capture what influences students to become involved in these spaces through a mixed-method study. A quantitative longitudinal study of students in a mechanical engineering program collected data on design self-efficacy, makerspace involvement, and user demographics through surveys conducted on freshmen, sophomores, and seniors. In this paper, the student responses from three semesters of freshmen level design classes are evaluated for involvement and self-efficacy based on whether or not a 3D modeling project requires the use of makerspace equipment. The study finds that students required to use the makerspace for the project were significantly more likely to become involved in the makerspace. These results inspired us to integrate a qualitative approach to examine how student involvement and exposure to the space are related. Using an in-depth phenomenologically based interviewing method, purposive sampling, and snowball sampling, six females, who have all made the conscious decision to engage in a university makerspace(s), participated in a three-series interview process. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed via emerging questions for categorical metrics and infographics of the student exposure and involvement in making and makerspaces. These findings are used to demonstrate 1) how students who do, or do not, seek out making activities may end up in the makerspace and 2) how student narratives resulting in high-makerspace involvement are impacted by prior experiences, classes, and friendships. 
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  5. Postulating that the act of making stimulates learning, a widespread effort prompted the integration of makerspaces on college campuses. From community colleges to research-based higher education institutions, large investments were and still are being made to advance the making spirit and encourage non-traditional learning in academic settings. While optimistic that students are taking advantage of the makerspace resources and are in fact learning from their experiences, there needs to be a more direct effort to understand the learning, if any, that is occurring in the makerspace. The makerspace is labeled as an open, learning environment where students are able to design, create, innovate, and collaborate [1, 2]. In response, we investigate the claims of this statement through the research question: how is learning experienced by female students in an academic makerspace? Female students in STEM, especially those engaged in makerspaces, have unique and uncharacteristic experiences that can lend way to various learning and pedagogical implications. The purpose of this paper is to highlight our methodological process for incorporating in-depth phenomenologically based interviewing and for utilizing open and axial coding methods to establish grounded theory. We interview five female students through purposeful maximum variation sampling and snowball sampling. Through a rigorous and iterative data analysis process of the ten-percent of the overall, we created a preliminary coding scheme that articulates how learning is occurring, what design skills are being learned, and what life skills are being learned. These preliminary findings show that not only are these female students learning by doing and learning how to problem solve in design, but they are also overcoming fears, developing patience, and communicating ideas in these design-oriented makerspaces. 
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  6. In response to findings from the Cech study on the Culture of Disengagement at American engineering institutions, much concern has emerged regarding how future engineers might not be developing a mindset that places the public’s well-being as a foremost priority. This, of course, could have an important bearing on the type of professionals that academic institutions are sending out into the world. Many candidate explanations could presumably emerge in terms of why students become “disengaged”, including practical worries about obtaining a job or paying off debt from college. Against this theoretical backdrop, our research team is in the process of investigating what may help to combat, or at least mitigate, this type of problem. In other words, we are seeking to identify which specific facets of community engagement activities contribute to or fortify the concern that engineering and other STEM students have for the well-being of the public. Our team is in the process of embarking on a five-year grant funded project to study the effects of a broad range of community engagement activities, both inside and outside of the classroom. 
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  7. Abstract Background

    Engineering education has observed considerable growth in academic makerspaces with initial data indicating significant potential for makerspaces to support learning.

    Purpose/Hypothesis

    Given gender disparities in engineering as a professional community of practice (CoP) and indications for makerspaces as sites for learning, educational researchers need to forge a better understanding of women's pathways into makerspaces, including the barriers that inhibit and the catalysts that broaden participation.

    Design/Method

    This study employed qualitative interviews with 20 women students who were identified as makers in order to gain insights into the characteristics of their pathways into university makerspaces.

    Results

    Using grounded theory development, four major aspects of students' pathways emerged: (1) early forms of apprenticeship through mentors; (2) overcoming and resisting limiting gendered expectations imposed by others in early experiences in unfamiliar makerspace CoPs, resulting in failed articulations of related communities; (3) successful articulations of community grounded in making‐centered coursework and personal passions; and (4) relationships in college that expanded access, leadership, and visibility toward fuller participation in makerspace CoPs.

    Conclusion

    Educational interventions to broaden women's participation in makerspaces must be multipronged and attend to early childhood experiences, include supportive opportunities for women to participate in making in K‐12 and university curricula, expand definitions of making to legitimize the arts and crafts as part of design, and create apprenticeship opportunities for women to mentor women in makerspaces. We must change the narrative of who makers are, what making is, and who belongs in makerspaces to reduce barriers and create inclusive making communities.

     
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