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Assessing the Value and Implementation of Interdisciplinary Activities in Academic Makerspaces and Machine Shops

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Assessment in Multidisciplinary Learning Environment

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Lennon Rodgers University of Wisconsin – Madison

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Lennon Rodgers is currently the Director of the Design Innovation Lab at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which includes a makerspace, machine shop and a set of interdisciplinary design programs. He earned his PhD and M.S. from MIT and B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (all mechanical engineering). Previously he worked at MIT as a Research Scientist and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an engineer. All of his research is related to engineering education and modeling, designing, building, instrumenting and testing complex systems ranging from spacecraft to electric vehicles.

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Caroline Benish University of Wisconsin - Madison

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This paper first investigates the value that engineering companies place on (1) interdisciplinary experiences and (2) hands-on skills learned in university makerspaces and machine shops. A survey was completed by 259 company representatives at the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering (UW CoE) career fair and over 90% said that interdisciplinary experiences are valuable to their company and they would be more likely to hire an engineering student with them. Certain hands-on skills such as 3D printing were considered valuable, though they did not score as high as interdisciplinary experiences. Thus, to provide more value to students, makerspaces and machine shops could be used to provide both hands-on skills and interdisciplinary experiences.

Secondly, this paper explores how the UW CoE fostered interdisciplinary activities through their makerspace and machine shop by offering targeted courses, workshops and programs. The overall aim was to create an academic pathway of interdisciplinary experiences for engineering students from pre-college programs through a master’s degree. Data was used to quantify the amount of interdisciplinary activity, which showed that 85% of the 1600 makerspace workshop attendees were there to gain skills outside their disciplines. This indicates that a makerspace may be well suited to foster interdisciplinary activities.

Rodgers, L., & Benish, C. (2021, July), Assessing the Value and Implementation of Interdisciplinary Activities in Academic Makerspaces and Machine Shops Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36723

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