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Development of Social Engagement Activities to Increase Student Participation in a Makerspace

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Jill Davishahl Western Washington University

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Jill Davishahl is Assistant Professor and First Year Programs Director in the Engineering + Design department at Western Washington University. Jill’s teaching, service, and research activities focus on enhancing the first year student experience by providing the foundational technical skills, student engagement opportunities, and professional skill development necessary to improve success in the major, with emphasis on supporting non-dominant student populations. Her current research focuses on creating inclusive and equitable learning environments through the development and implementation of strategies geared towards increasing student sense of belonging.

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Audrey Boklage University of Texas at Austin

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Madison Andrews University of Texas at Austin

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Over the past decade, the makerspace movement has transformed engineering education by providing students with open access to equipment and workspaces where they can develop their problem-solving skills, collaborate with other students, and gain confidence in their abilities. However, some literatures suggests that many makerspace environments do not readily support diverse populations, can create tensions between different student groups, and can sometimes feel exclusive and unwelcoming. In addition, non-dominate students often develop negative perceptions of makerspace culture due to gender bias and marginalization. It is essential that academic makerspaces are welcoming and that all students feel a sense of belonging in these spaces, as a greater sense of belonging in students leads to increased persistence and student success, especially for non-dominate student populations. Funded through the NSF Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (RIEF) program, this project seeks to increase student sense of belonging in undergraduate engineering students through the integration of social engagement activities into an academic makerspace. Social engagement activities, in this context, are events, projects, discussions, and workshops that have a strong emphasis on supporting the social and emotional development of students. Supporting students’ social and emotional development is an essential component to creating culturally competent, well-rounded engineers. Due to the flexible and informal nature of the makerspace environment, it is an ideal place to build and create these social connections between students. The engagement activities were designed to encourage students of all backgrounds, majors, and ability levels to participate in the makerspace as they build connections with their peers. To encourage connection with peers, the engagement activities were supported and directed by major-level students who were hired as Student Engagement Liaisons (SELs).” This paper summarizes the development of the social engagement activities and reports on participation, student engagement, and student perspectives of the activities. Working closely with the project PI, the SELs worked together to design, develop, and conduct five social engagement activities: (1) Halloween DIY Night, (2) Inclusion Discussion, (3) Holiday Crafts, (4) Game Night & Innovative Workspaces, and (5) Self-Love Event. For each activity, student participation counts were recorded, and post-event evaluations were collected from the SELs. Overall, engagement activities have been successful from the standpoint of student participation and engagement. We highlight several lessons learned and detail plans for future events; the next phase of the project will assess the impact that these activities have on student sense of belonging.

Davishahl, J., & Boklage, A., & Andrews, M. (2022, August), Development of Social Engagement Activities to Increase Student Participation in a Makerspace Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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