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Making Identities: Understanding the Factors that Lead Young Adults to Identify with the Maker Movement

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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


Steven Weiner School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University

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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 how the Maker movement can help shape learning culture and student identity. 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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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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This research paper explores the factors that contributed to the formation of Maker identity in a population of young adults. These "Young Makers" are learning skills, knowledge, and habits of mind that provide them with plausible pathways to STEM majors and careers. Thus, STEM educators are developing Maker-based curricula and opening makerspaces (Honey & Kanter, 2013) at a rapid pace. At the heart of these efforts is the question: how do educators optimally incorporate aspects of the Maker Movement into schools, museums, libraries, and extracurricular educational institutions? By moving immediately to the materials and tools or considering Making as part of a more traditional curricular program, we believe that educators may be missing the most important piece of the movement—the Makers themselves.

By using Gee’s identity lens categories (2000) as a theoretical starting point in concert with grounded theory in a parallel inductive-deductive analysis, we identified and categorized the ways that self-identified Young Makers describe the roots of their Maker identity. Data was gathered from 11 Young Makers through semi-structured critical incident interviews at large Maker Faires in the United States. Analysis of the data suggest that Young Makers attribute their Maker identity to meaningful personal relationships that encouraged or modeled Maker practices, sustained individual interactions with physical tools and materials, and opportunities to explore their personal interests in social contexts. By providing insight into the roots of Young Makers’ identities, we hope these findings prove useful to educators and administrators hoping to foster vibrant, authentic, and durable Maker cultures in their schools.

Weiner, S., & Lande, M., & Jordan, S. S. (2017, June), Making Identities: Understanding the Factors that Lead Young Adults to Identify with the Maker Movement Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28642

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