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Full Paper: Student-developed plans for use of maker spaces in a self-selected creative design project

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

Start Date

August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Benjamin Daniel Chambers Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education

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Benjamin Chambers is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, and Director of the Frith First-Year Engineering Design Lab. He is an interdisciplinary scholar with three degrees from Virginia Tech, including an MS Civil Infrastructure Engineering, MS Entomology, and a PhD in Environmental Design and Planning. His educational research interests include student creativity, and the built environment as an educational tool for engineering and biology.

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This full paper examines student planning for the use of a campus maker space in a self-selected creative design project. Design and creation is an important part of learning engineering, and our institution’s first-year engineering program dedicates the better part of the second semester to a team-based iterative design process. To support this process, our program provides first-year students with an exclusive maker space, which is primarily utilized for team projects in the second semester. In order to give students more opportunities for creative hands-on work, a self-selected creative design project was developed and administered in several first-semester class sections over several years, with a positive student response. This design project is conducted in several stages: ideation, planning, creation, demonstration, and reflection. Of particular importance was a planning assignment, in which students develop their ability to create plans and estimate project needs, and also estimate time commitment in order to keep the project manageable. This paper uses the submissions to that assignment to examine how first semester engineering students create plans for self-selected maker space projects.

This planning assignment included three elements. A short narrative included at least one paragraph explaining what they were making and why, and another describing the plan. A materials table outlined the materials the project would require, and where they were to be sourced (students were strongly encouraged to use the materials provided free to all users of the maker space). Finally, a process table explained the step-by-step process of creation, including the tools and expected duration of each step. Guidelines specified maximum expected time, which varied with each iteration of the assignment.

For submissions from three semesters, each of the three elements was assessed for quality, completeness, thoroughness, and clarity. Submissions were also coded according to several characteristics: whether the plan could be followed by someone else and the level of granularity in steps, and whether students relied on free materials. Furthermore, project details were extracted to describe student plans, including total expected time, intended tools, material types, and the purpose of the project (art, tool, furniture, etc.).

[Results forthcoming, assessment currently in process]

These results will be of interest to educators teaching design and project planning to first-year students, and to those interested in developing self-selected creative projects. They may also be of interest to managers of maker spaces dedicated to those students by indicating popular material and tool choices in self-selected projects.

Chambers, B. D. (2021, August), Full Paper: Student-developed plans for use of maker spaces in a self-selected creative design project Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

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