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The goal of our exploratory study was to examine how management and staff in engineering education making spaces are enacting equitable access amongst their users (e.g., students). We examined six different making space types categorized by Wilczynsky’s and Hoover’s classification of academic makerspaces, which considered scope, accessibility, users, footprint (size), and management and staffing. We reviewed research memos and transcripts of interviews of university makerspace staff, student staff, and leaders/administrators during two separate visits to these places that took place between 2017 and 2019. We inductively and deductively coded the data, and the findings suggested that equity of access was situational and contextual. From the results, we identified four additional considerations needed to ensure equitable access for engineering education making spaces: (a) spaces designed and operated for multiple points of student entry; (b) spaces operated to facilitate effective student making processes and pathways; (c) threats to expanded access: burdens and consequences; and (d) elevating student membership and equity through a culture of belonging. Together, the findings point toward a need for developing a more nuanced understanding of the concept of access that far supersedes a flattened definition of access to just space, equipment, and cost.
Beyond Making: Application of Constructionist Learning Principles in Engineering Prototyping CentersThe creation of student-centered spaces for making and prototyping continues to be a growing trend in higher education. These spaces are especially relevant in engineering education as they provide opportunities for engineering students to engage in authentic and collaborative problemsolving activities that can develop students’ 21st-century skills [1–3]. Principles of constructionist learning theory, which promote knowledge creation through development of a physical product [4,5], may be applied to support learning within these spaces. Beyond the construction of objects, this learning theory emphasizes a learning culture where teachers serve as guides to collaborative and student-driven learning . This research seeks to understand how constructionism's learning principles are integrated into an engineering prototyping center (EPC) at a large western university. Further, we explore how these principles may support engineering student development within these spaces and identify a qualitative coding scheme for future research. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with faculty, staff, and students involved with the EPC suggests that the construction of physical prototypes within this space allows for the translation of abstract concepts to concrete experiences and the development of iterative design skills. Further, the data suggests that staff play an essential role in creating a learning culture aligned with constructionistmore »
Student development at the boundaries: Makerspaces as affordances for engineering students’ development.University-based makerspaces are receiving increasing attention as promising innovations that may contribute to the development of future engineers. Using a theory of social boundary spaces, we investigated whether the diverse experiences offered at university-based makerspaces may contribute to students’ learning and development of various “soft” or “21st century” skills that go beyond engineering-specific content knowledge. Through interviews with undergraduate student users at two university-based makerspaces in the United States we identified seven different types of boundary spaces (where multiple communities, and the individuals and activities affiliated with those communities, come together). We identified students engaging in the processes of identification, reflection, and coordination, which allowed them to make sense of, and navigate, the various boundary spaces they encountered in the makerspaces. These processes provided students with opportunities to engage with, and learn from, individuals and practices affiliated with various communities and disciplines. These opportunities can lead to students’ development of necessary skills to creatively and collaboratively address interdisciplinary socio-scientific problems. We suggest that universitybased makerspaces can offer important developmental experiences for a diverse body of students that may be challenging for a single university department, program, or course to offer. Based on these findings, we recommend university programs and facultymore »
Student perceptions of and learning in makerspaces embedded in their undergraduate engineering preparation programsBuilding upon our two years of research on the use of makerspaces in undergraduate engineering programs, we engaged in a large-scale data collection from students enrolled in undergraduate engineering preparation programs with affiliated makerspaces established for a minimum of three years. Using web searches, and other sources of information (e.g. references from other researchers or faculty members), we have identified 28 institutions that met our criteria. Working with a third party, we gathered over 574 responses from undergraduate engineering students with makerspace experiences spread across the 28 institutions. To gather our data, we created and validated an online survey with a combination of quantitative and qualitative items. We constructed a survey with subscales aligned with motivation to learn, growth mindset, learning goal orientation, knowledge of engineering as a profession, and belongingness and inclusion, as associated with work within makerspaces. We found significant positive correlations among the variables, positive levels of motivation, growth mindset, knowledge of engineering as a profession, and belongingness. We found differences in levels for gender, engineering majors, and student class standing. We discuss the implications for our findings in the context of undergraduate engineering student learning in makerspaces.
Extensive funding and resources have been allocated to support the integration of makerspaces in undergraduate engineering programs and, with greater investment, there is growing likelihood that engineering students are expected to use the spaces as part of their coursework. The investment in and placement of the spaces within colleges of engineering, specifically, provide warrant for anticipating that engineering faculty members are assigning projects that require students to engage in the space to complete the assignments.