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Making and Engineering: Understanding Similarities and Differences

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.881.1 - 24.881.9



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Paper Authors


James Logan Oplinger Arizona State University

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I am a student at Arizona State University, studying electrical engineering. I plan on going to graduate school at ASU for the Engineering (MS) degree. After I graduate I will work in industry, but I plan on becoming an engineering professor afterwards.

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Andrew Michael Heiman


Matthew Dickens Arizona State University

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Sophmore Electrical Engineering Student at Arizona State Universities' Honors College interested in engineering education and the entertainment industry.

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Chrissy Hobson Foster Arizona State University


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

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Shawn Jordan, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at Arizona State University. He is the PI on three NSF-funded projects: CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society (EEC 1351728), Might Young Makers be the Engineers of the Future? (EEC 1329321), and Broadening the Reach of Engineering through Community Engagement (BRECE) (DUE 1259356). He is also Co-PI on one NSF-funded project: Should Makers be the Engineers of the Future? (EEC 1232772), and is senior personnel on an NSF-funded grant entitled Workshop: I-Corps for Learning (i-Corps-L). He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2010) and M.S./B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University, and as a qualitative researcher studies both STEM and informal engineering education. As an educator, he founded and led a team to two collegiate National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest championships, and has co-developed the STEAM Machines™ / “Rube Goldbergineering” program over the past 6 years to expose middle and high school students to the engineering design process.

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Micah Lande Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Dr. Micah Lande teaches human-centered design innovation at Arizona State University and researches how engineers learn and apply a design process to their work. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering on Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus.

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What is Making? What is Engineering? Makers are an emerging community of self-described DIY-enthusiasts, tinkerersand hobbyists. Popularized by the quarterly magazine MAKE and annual Maker Faireevents, this work seeks to examine and better understand the context of their activities,particularly in informal engineering education and tinkering activities. Makers emboldencharacteristics from the Engineer of 2020, and in particular practical ingenuity, creativity,and propensity toward lifelong learning; making is of particular interest to the field ofengineering and to engineering educators. We explore what it means to make. A review of definitions was undertaken viatwo methods. The first was convergent, relying on a literature review spanning severalacademic disciplines. The second means was divergent, collecting definitions via an ad-hoc, grounded, in-situ approach at two recent Maker Faire events. Respondents wereprovided with post-it notes, posed with the questions “What is Making?”, “What isengineering?”, and “Why are you attracted to making?”, and asked to contribute to ashared, public wall of multiple definitions. Both approaches yield information that can beused to characterize perceptions of making and contribute to its definition. This analysisrepresents a second iteration and builds from a collection of post-its asking respondentsto answer the question, “How do you define Making?”. Preliminary findings have shown several common terms and perceptions that canbe used to define making. Words such as maker, hacker and hobbyist appear in severalvarying contexts, from education to history, and in the context of the maker movement.The open-ended question activity also had interesting trends. Many responses describedbuilding or making of something from a creative viewpoint. This work is a first step. These methods helped to characterize making in amanner that can be useful to a larger study investigating the educational pathways ofMakers. Using qualitative research methods of critical incident, artifact, and contextelicitation interviews, we are developing a theory describing Makers and theirengineering education pathways. Our primary research questions are: What knowledge,skills, and attitudes do Makers possess that could be related to engineering? and How dopathways of Makers intersect with engineering? The study will advance the currentlylimited knowledge of the Maker community by developing theory characterizing Makersand their pathways through the lens of formal engineering education. The aim is toestablish evidence as to how Makers embody specific attributes of the Engineer of 2020and discover additional attributes of Makers that could define the engineer of the future.

Oplinger, J. L., & Heiman, A. M., & Dickens, M., & Foster, C. H., & Jordan, S. S., & Lande, M. (2014, June), Making and Engineering: Understanding Similarities and Differences Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22814

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