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Do I Belong in a Makerspace?: Investigating Student Belonging and Non-verbal Cues in a University Makerspace

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 4

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Paper Authors

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Stefanie A. Hotchkiss Undergraduate Research Assistant


Kimberly Grau Talley P.E. Texas State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kimberly G. Talley is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, Maker Space Co-Director and Senior Research Fellow for the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State University, and a licensed Professional Engineer. She received her Ph.D. and M.S.E. from the University of Texas at Austin in Structural Engineering. Her undergraduate degrees in History and in Construction Engineering and Management are from North Carolina State University. Dr. Talley teaches courses in the Construction Science and Management Program, and her research focus is in student engagement and retention in engineering and engineering technology education. Contact:

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Michelle Londa Texas State University

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Dr. Michelle Londa is currently an Associate Professor of Practice and the Cooperative Education Coordinator for the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University. Cooperative Education has been proven to increase the graduation rates of engineering students, especially underrepresented groups with whom she has a passion for facilitating success. She is also developing the R2E2 WiSE program to Recruit, Retain, Empower and Employ Women in Science and Engineering. She has taught classes spanning engineering and chemistry at the undergraduate level, and she has published eight (8) papers with student authors in the past five (5) years.

Moreover, Dr. Londa has over 15 years of professional experience progressing from “Research Scientist” at Shell Chemical Company to “Market Development Manager” at Southern Clay Products. She earned two patents while working at Shell Chemical Company, and she commercialized numerous applications with customers such as HP, Lexmark, Nalge, Tyco Electronics and Yamaha. Finally, she assisted 4 technicians in their promotion to the scientific rank, in accordance with her belief in diversity.

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Austin Talley P.E. Texas State University

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Dr. Austin Talley a Senior Research Fellow with LBJ Institute for STEM Education & Research and Senior Lecturer in the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University. Prior to joining the faculty at Texas State University, Dr. Austin Talley worked as a manufacturing quality engineer for a test and measurement company, National Instruments, in Austin, TX. Dr. Austin Talley is a licensed by state of Texas as a Professional Engineer. Both of Dr. Austin Talley’s graduate degrees, a doctorate and masters in Mechanical Engineering, manufacturing and design area, are from the University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, Dr. Austin Talley holds an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University in Mechanical Engineering. His research is in engineering design theory and engineering education. He has published over 25 papers in engineering education journals and conference proceedings. He has worked to implement multiple National Science Foundation (NSF) grants focused on engineering education. He has been an instructor in more than ten week long summer K-12 teach Professional Development Institutes (PDI). He has received multiple teaching awards. He has developed design based curriculum for multiple K-12 teach PDIs and student summer camps.

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A much acknowledged and discussed problem within education has been the lack of engineering and STEM student retention. Data shows that in regard to numbers of women and minorities, this issue is even greater. However, while it has been an identified topic for several years, it tragically continues unceasingly. There is a repetitive cycle of an underrepresentation of minorities and women in the engineering and STEM fields combining with a lower sense of belonging because of being underrepresented. This trend leads to lower interest and retention, and so goes the cycle. Studies have shown that even the ambient environment can signal belongingness, or a lack thereof, to outside groups that do not meet the cultural stereotypes. To challenge this dilemma in an engineering makerspace and initiate change, this study will investigate the effect of nonverbal cues in an engineering makerspace environment to address the issue of underrepresentation and retention.

Makerspaces on college campuses are steadily growing in popularity and are frequently where students may prototype personal and class projects and utilize resources such as 3D printers, laser etchers, CNC machines, sewing machines, embroiderers, silk-screening, and other tooling/crafting machinery. While these machines that are available for engineering students to use in the makerspace are not intended to be gender/racially biased, the presence of equipment may signal that some students’ prior experiences are more highly valued than others. Further, makerspaces reporting user demographics have not been equally balanced in usage rates by gender. A hypothesis is that the imbalance is due to ambient identity cues which do not accurately portray a fully representative population. With the unveiling of a new makerspace in the recently completed Engineering and Science building, this study seeks to capitalize on the opportunity to implement targeted studies through the use of inclusive posters on the walls, student works’ displays, and descriptive text in project manuals. This paper presents the initial stages of this project that collects data on maker stereotypes and develops a survey to measure the effect of makerspace environment on the sense of student belonging.

Hotchkiss, S. A., & Talley, K. G., & Londa, M., & Talley, A. (2019, June), Do I Belong in a Makerspace?: Investigating Student Belonging and Non-verbal Cues in a University Makerspace Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32673

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