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  1. The Engineer of 2020 recognizes creativity, invention, and innovation as indispensable qualities for engineering. It may be argued, however, that traditional engineering programs do not inherently foster these qualities in engineering students, and with limited resources and time, adding innovation-fostering experiences to already over-packed curricula may seem like an insurmountable challenge. Longitudinal studies carried out by the authors have shown that makerspaces can foster improvement in engineering students’ design self-efficacy, and three-part phenomenological interviews have shown that students in makerspaces engage in non-linear, open-ended, student-driven projects that require hands-on designing, prototyping, modeling, and testing. These studies provide initial evidence that makerspaces may have the potential to enhance students’ deep learning of engineering and engineering design. To arrive at the more complex cultural factors related to student involvement and success related to participation in makerspaces, we describe the processes of ethnographic methodologies we are using to study the intersections between the structure of an engineering curriculum and the learning that occurs outside of the classroom in makerspaces. Ethnographic methodologies of participant observation, unstructured and semi-structured interviews enable exploration of how students (1) interact within and construct the culture of makerspaces; (2) talk about maker space culture as important to their commitmentmore »to engineering; (3) learn within maker spaces; and (4) choose the type and direction of projects. This paper specifically describes the ethnographic methodologies used to track four different undergraduate student teams participating in a two-year senior capstone project, as well as three different student teams participating in a sophomore design class in which they use makerspaces to build a human powered vehicle for a client with a disability. Initial interpretations are presented that inform our understanding of the complex cultural system in which learning occurs, ultimately helping us to consider ways to improve university makerspaces.« less
  2. 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 rigorousmore »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.« less
  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 workermore »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.« less
  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 allmore »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.« less