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Board 37: Student Experiences in a University Makerspace: Design as Decision Making

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors

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Kathryn Elizabeth Shroyer University of Washington Orcid 16x16

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Timothy Sun University of Washington

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Motivation: Engineering design is highly important, but difficult to teach and learn, particularly in university settings where time is limited. Course interventions like capstones have strong learning outcomes but are limited in scope and are highly resource intensive. University makerspaces present an opportunity to supplement this structured project-based coursework with informal, interest-driven, project-based learning. However, we know little about students’ experiences navigating projects in makerspaces without the scaffolding of courses or workshops. In this study, we examine the trajectories of seven students working on independent sewing projects in their university makerspace as a means of analyzing their process, resource needs, and the role of the makerspace as a source of informal structure and curriculum.

Method: To capture informal project activity, seven students were recruited to a research seminar where they were asked to 1) pursue an independent sewing project of their choosing in the makerspace, 2) document that project through student authored digital journals, and 3) discuss their experiences together in a weekly group meeting. Project requirements were left very broad asking students only to utilize sewing resources in the university makerspace and to complete the project in a 10-week period. Students submitted 108 activity entries and 147 reflection entries documenting project activity in their journals. Anonymized journal entries were analyzed by two researchers through 1) thematic analysis and 2) qualitative coding of journal entry metrics (date, time, duration, word count, image count, location of activity, project, and major activity). These codes were used to map and compare students experiences.

Results: We present two kinds of results: 1) a high level account of students individual project work looking at patterns in activity note metrics (time, word count, location, project, and activity) both within and across students and 2) a more detailed account of student activities drawn from thematic analysis the journals. We find that students engage in the major activities of getting access to the makerspace, picking a project, sourcing and acquiring materials, learning to use particular tools, fabricating, and troubleshooting. In general, students feel the makerspace supports fabrication rather than design learning. While some students spent more time in the makerspace than others, most students spent a significant amount of time working at home or elsewhere on campus not in the makerspace. More results to come as analysis is in progress. We aim to present visual maps of students’ experiences as a means of seeing across different students activity, projects, location, and time.

Discussion: While not all project activity is captured by the students in their journals, we are able to see trajectories of informal activity over a l0 week timescale. Beginning to look at students independent processes has implications for what and how we create structure for supporting design activities and learning in university makerspaces. Future work will continue to explore autoethnography and visualization as a means of helping students and researchers understand process in interest driven personal fabrication projects as well as design and test interventions to support informal design decision making in makerspaces.

Shroyer, K. E., & Sun, T. (2019, June), Board 37: Student Experiences in a University Makerspace: Design as Decision Making Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32334

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