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Board # 128 : An Ethnography of Maker and Hacker Spaces Achieving Diverse Participation

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Donna M Riley Virginia Tech

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Donna Riley is Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education and Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Lisa D. McNair Virginia Tech

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Lisa D. McNair is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as co-Director of the VT Engineering Communication Center (VTECC) and CATALYST Fellow at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). Her research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration, design education, communication studies, identity theory and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include exploring disciplines as cultures, liberatory maker spaces, and a RED grant to increase pathways in ECE for the professional formation of engineers.

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Adam Stark Masters Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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S. Masters is a doctoral student and Graduate Research Assistant at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Masters received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Delaware and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Masters' research interests include equity and social justice in engineering with particular attention to the experiences of women & LGBTQ+ engineering students.

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Maker spaces have been hailed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education communities for presenting an opportunity to broaden participation of underrepresented groups by engaging them in open, creative, and supportive spaces for learning and applying practical STEM knowledge. Some have questioned the potential of these spaces as many maker and hacker spaces seem to be enacting certain norms that are more conducive to participation of white, male, middle-class, able-bodied hobbyists. However, there are spaces noted for participation homeless makers, women, people of color, and people with different kinds of abilities. This project considers how diverse maker spaces are conceived, constructed and operated to actively involve groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM, and collectively identify practices that can inform the design and operation of campus and community maker or hacker spaces that presently struggle to achieve diversity. 

The research employs ethnographic methods and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to characterize spaces in terms of their physical and linguistic artifacts. Here we report results from preliminary research examining online and published artifacts from our cohort of diverse makerspaces in preparation for direct observations beginning in summer 2017.

Research questions explored through this first phase of the project include: (1) What practices and artifacts do participants in diverse maker and hacker spaces employ to establish and maintain environments that are diverse and inclusive? (2) What does the discourse in diverse maker and hacker spaces reveal about how meaning and value are co-constructed around identity, creativity, and the culture of production / the production of culture in engineering? (3) What best practices emerge from diverse maker and hacker spaces, and how can these translate to design or transformation of existing maker spaces on campuses and in communities?

Researchers and members of diverse maker and hacker spaces will use the findings from this project to co-construct strategies for (1) stimulating innovative design thinking in experiential curricula; (2) embedding inclusive practice that increase retention and broaden participation in STEM; (3) empowering citizen engineers through local and national networks of makers, students, and faculty; and (4) enabling new STEM and design pedagogies in progressive undergraduate learning environments that will enrich the U.S. innovation ecosystem.

Riley, D. M., & McNair, L. D., & Masters, A. S. (2017, June), Board # 128 : An Ethnography of Maker and Hacker Spaces Achieving Diverse Participation Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27724

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