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Making Connections: Exploring Culturally Embedded Making Practices and Perceptions (Work in Progress)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division Poster Session: Works in Progress

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Gina Navoa Svarovsky University of Notre Dame

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Gina Navoa Svarovsky is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the University of Notre Dame Center for STEM Education. For over a decade, she has been interested in how young people learn science and engineering in both formal and informal learning environments. Specifically, her research interests are focused on exploring how youth from traditionally underrepresented populations in engineering are able to develop engineering skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking as a result of participating in a variety of learning experiences. She also holds a joint appointment in the College of Engineering at Notre Dame and teaches in the First-year engineering program. Prior to joining the faculty at the Center for STEM Education, Svarovsky worked as a Senior Evaluation and Research associate at the Science Museum of Minnesota. She earned a BS in Chemical Engineering from Notre Dame and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin.

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Marjorie B. Bequette Science Museum of Minnesota

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Marjorie Bequette is Director of Lifelong Learning at Science Museum of Minnesota.

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Lauren Causey

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Increasingly, informal learning environments such as those found in museums and out-of-school programs have been working to provide opportunities for young people to develop early interest and understanding in engineering and design. In particular, the Maker movement, and Maker activities, are quickly being recognized as a potentially transformative pathway to developing interest in engineering. However, like other traditional STEM activities that have been shown to be disenfranchising for members of underrepresented groups like women and people of color, Maker activities can struggle at times to reach diverse audiences. Some potential reasons for this lack of broad participation may include a general lack of awareness about the Maker Movement. In addition, there may be a sense of misalignment between personal interests and some perceptions about Making, which can sometimes be seen as an expensive hobby for men and boys that is heavily focused on tinkering with digital and electronic components.

This narrow view of Making – which can leave out a wide swath of other types of non-electronic, non-computational Maker activities – can then lead to the development of a Maker and Making stereotype that does not resonate personally or culturally with traditionally underserved audiences. For example, members of these communities may not feel connected or interested in the types of projects they perceive as “Making” projects, and they may not see themselves reflected in the current definition of the “Maker” identity. Indeed, a broader definition of Making – one that seeks to include all activities where people creatively design and build solutions to problems that are important and meaningful to them – might be more inviting to a wider range of people.

In an effort to begin cultivating a more inclusive definition of Making, the Making Connections project conducted a series of focus groups and interviews with members of communities of color in a large Midwestern city. In this study, we explore current perceptions of Making within these communities, including the types of artifacts produced by participants when making artifacts and the processes associated with these activities. We also compare participants' definitions of making with those most commonly represented on MAKE Magazine.

Svarovsky, G. N., & Bequette, M. B., & Causey, L. (2016, June), Making Connections: Exploring Culturally Embedded Making Practices and Perceptions (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25660

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