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Resilience and Innovation in Response to COVID-19: Learnings from Northeast Academic Makerspaces

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Impact of COVID-19 on Design Education 1

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Victoria Bill New York University, Tandon School of Engineering

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Victoria Bill is the Director of the MakerSpace Lab and an Adjunct Professor in the First-Year Engineering Program at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She studied electrical engineering and received her B.S. from the Ohio State University and her M.S. from the University of Texas at Austin. Her previous work included co-directing and teaching the Summer STEM Program for high school students at the Cooper Union.

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Anne-Laure Fayard New York University, Tandon School of Engineering

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Anne-Laure Fayard is Associate Professor of Management in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and is affiliated with the Department of Management and Organizations at NYU Stern Business School. Her research interests involve communication, collaboration, culture and space, with a focus on interactions, particularly those between people and technology. Her work has been published in several leading journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Information System Research, Organization Science and Organization Studies. She is also the co-author of a book on The Power of Writing in Organizations. She holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from the Ecole des Hautes-Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), an M. Phil. in Cognitive Science from Ecole Polytechnique (Paris) and an MA and M. Phil. in Philosophy from La Sorbonne (Paris).

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Studies over the last decade have emphasized the need for hands-on, experiential learning and the importance of making in engineering education. This emphasis has led to the blossoming of makerspaces in engineering schools and universities more broadly. The lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities to shift to fully remote teaching and close their makerspaces in Spring 2020, and the Fall 2020 semester has seen a whole gamut of models for teaching. What happened to makerspaces and how have they tried to maintain their key role in both extra-curricular and curricular learning?

This paper will present an overview of common challenges to typical academic makerspace operation. It will highlight the changes and adaptations in operation due to Covid-19 at four universities in the US Northeast. Three of the four institutions are public, while one is private. The spaces have been open from three to five years, and three are directly supported by or housed in the school of engineering, while the other one by the school’s IT department. All four makerspaces have historically been open to the entire university.

Academic makerspaces support both curricular and extra-curricular design projects and learning at many institutions. While the Covid-19 pandemic has forced most universities to switch to fully remote or some combination of hybrid/hyflex and remote courses, many of the physical activities necessary for prototyping are in flux. Many universities have allowed their labs and makerspace to open in a limited capacity, while some have suspended all or almost all operations. Specific changes to capacity, access, hours, and funding will be provided in detail for each makerspace. Innovations in training methods (such as online training modules), reservation systems, machine operations, or new methods to support remote and in-person collaboration will be documented.

Results will be presented as case studies to support future research on the impact of collaboration within academic makerspaces and to share resources and ideas on how these spaces have and will continue to adapt. Any best practices that emerge from the four spaces will be highlighted. Future research questions from each interview will be posed. Collecting and assessing the impact in the short term will allow engineering education and design education researchers to begin studying the long term impact of the pandemic on both these spaces and collaborative, project-based learning.

Bill, V., & Fayard, A. (2021, July), Resilience and Innovation in Response to COVID-19: Learnings from Northeast Academic Makerspaces Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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