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Makers as Adaptive Experts-in-Training: How Maker Design Practices Could Lead to the Engineers of the Future

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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

Makers, Making, and the Maker Movement

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


James Larson Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Engineering (Electrical Systems) third-year undergraduate.

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Micah Lande Arizona State University

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Micah Lande, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering programs and Tooker Professor at the Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches human-centered engineering design, design thinking, and design innovation project courses. Dr. Lande researches how technical and non-technical people learn and apply a design process to their work.  He is interested in the intersection of designerly epistemic identities and vocational pathways. Dr. Lande is the PI/co-PI on NSF-funded projects focused on engineering doing and making, citizen science and engineering outreach, and “revolutionizing” engineering education. He has also been an instructor and participant in the NSF Innovation Corps for Learning program. He received his B.S in Engineering (Product Design), M.A. in Education (Learning, Design and Technology) and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (Design Education) from Stanford University.

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Shawn S. Jordan Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus Orcid 16x16

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SHAWN JORDAN, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches context-centered electrical engineering and embedded systems design courses, and studies the use of context in both K-12 and undergraduate engineering design education. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2010) and M.S./B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University. Dr. Jordan is PI on several NSF-funded projects related to design, including an NSF Early CAREER Award entitled “CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society” and “Might Young Makers be the Engineers of the Future?,” and is a Co-PI on the NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments grant “Additive Innovation: An Educational Ecosystem of Making and Risk Taking.” He was named one of ASEE PRISM’s “20 Faculty Under 40” in 2014, and received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama in 2017.

Dr. Jordan co-developed the STEAM Labs™ program to engage middle and high school students in learning science, technology, engineering, arts, and math concepts through designing and building chain reaction machines. He founded and led teams to two collegiate Rube Goldberg Machine Contest national championships, and has appeared on many TV shows (including Modern Marvels on The History Channel and Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC) and a movie with his chain reaction machines. He serves on the Board of the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa, AZ, and worked as a behind-the scenes engineer for season 3 of the PBS engineering design reality TV show Design Squad. He also held the Guinness World Record for the largest number of steps – 125 – in a working Rube Goldberg machine.

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Steven Weiner Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Steven Weiner is a PhD student in Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. He is interested in researching innovative learning frameworks at the intersection of formal and informal STEM education, specifically focusing on the impact of long-term, project-based programs on middle and high school students at community makerspaces and science centers. Before starting his doctoral studies, Mr. Weiner served as the founding Program Director for CREATE at Arizona Science Center, a hybrid educational makerspace/ community learning center. He has previous experience as a physics and math instructor at the middle school and high school levels.

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Self-regulated learning is a defining trait of the Maker Movement. Projects undertaken by Makers tend to be solutions to problems defined by the Makers themselves. They learn the knowledge and skills necessary as they become relevant in their project design process. This means that as they take on new projects, their adaptive expertise will be continuously tested. Unique challenges that they face in practical design requires Makers to identify how to approach and solve specific, multi-faceted problems. Lifelong Makers will then be the best equipped engineers of the future, as ability to learn and adapt to conquer new problems that arise in a constantly evolving technological landscape will better serve the Engineer of 2035 than knowledge of existing solutions and procedures.

This study answers the following research question: How do adult and young makers exhibit traits of adaptive expertise? 40 semi-structured artifact elicitation interviews were conducted with adult and young makers interviewed at Maker Faires in the United States. Artifact elicitation interviews provide a platform to understand how Makers overcame different obstacles they faced while designing their solutions. The artifact elicitation interviews from both Young and Adult Makers will show the variety of methods Makers use when facing challenges that they have not encountered before, including how their adaptive expertise dictates their design process. Having a better grasp of the Maker process and how exactly they utilize the help available in their learning ecology, will make it easier to apply Maker ideology to a classroom setting.

Results of the thematic analysis suggest that adaptive expertise is a significant characteristic in the mindset of a lifelong learner and especially the lifelong maker. The sense of intuition developed with age, and by the experience that comes from solving multiple complex, real world problems in a building project, shows that the lifelong Maker is the Engineer of 2035 The qualitative research indicates that everyone’s engineering design process is different, and based on the learning methods used in the past. Knowing oneself, and the skills one has, is crucial for an engineer to have when finding a career that they would enjoy and excel in, in the constantly growing and changing field of engineering and technology.

Larson, J., & Lande, M., & Jordan, S. S., & Weiner, S. (2017, June), Makers as Adaptive Experts-in-Training: How Maker Design Practices Could Lead to the Engineers of the Future Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28640

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