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What Do Young Makers Learn?

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Micah Lande Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Micah Lande, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering programs at The Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State 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?” He has also been part of the teaching team for NSF’s Innovation Corps for Learning, and was named one of ASEE PRISM’s “20 Faculty Under 40” in 2014.

Dr. Jordan also founded and led teams to two collegiate National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest championships, and has 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 has appeared on many TV shows (including Modern Marvels on The History Channel and Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC) and a movie with his Rube Goldberg machines, 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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The purpose of this NSF-funded study is to understand Young Makers in K-12 and how their knowledge,

skills, and attitudes might prepare them to pursue advanced STEM education and careers. Makers are an emerging community of self-described DIY-enthusiasts, tinkerers and hobbyists. Popularized by the quarterly magazine MAKE and annual Maker Faire events, this work seeks to examine and better understand the context of their activities, particularly in informal engineering education and tinkering activities. Makers embolden characteristics from the Engineer of 2020, and in particular practical ingenuity, creativity, and propensity toward lifelong learning; making is of particular interest to the field of engineering and to engineering educators.

Using qualitative research methods of critical incident, artifact, and context elicitation interviews, we are developing a theory describing Young Makers and their engineering education pathways. Our primary research questions are: What knowledge, skills, and attitudes do Makers possess that could be related to engineering? and How do pathways of Makers intersect with engineering?


 study will advance the currently limited knowledge of the Young Maker community by

developing theory characterizing Young Makers and their pathways through the lens of formal

engineering education. The aim is to establish evidence as to how Makers embody specific attributes of the Engineer of 2020 and discover additional attributes of Young Makers that could define the engineer of the future and effects their pathways to STEM majors and related careers.

The results of this study will transform the conversation of who Young Makers could become,

linking Making with engineering in the same way that students who excel in science and math

are pointed toward engineering by parents and career counselors. By sharing a diverse (by age,

gender, and ethnicity) set of success profiles of Young Makers widely in the formal education

system to students, K-12 school administrators, university leaders, admissions officers, and to

Young Makers both online and at Young Maker community events, we aim to illuminate

pathways for Young Makers to become the engineers of the future. In addition, this study could

inform future innovation in formal K-12 STEM pedagogy based on successful attributes of

informal engineering education and tinkering activities.

Lande, M., & Jordan, S. S. (2016, June), What Do Young Makers Learn? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27191

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