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What is Making? What is Engineering?

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1726.1 - 26.1726.8



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Paper Authors


Andrew Michael Heiman

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Andrew Heiman is an undergraduate studying electrical engineering at Arizona State University. He is interested in engineering education and the aerospace industry.

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Micah Lande Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Micah Lande, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches human-centered engineering design and innovation courses in the engineering and manufacturing engineering programs. 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 received his B.S in Engineering (Product Design), M.A. in Education (Learning, Design and Technology) and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (Design Thinking) from Stanford University. Dr. Lande is the PI on the NSF-funded project “Should Makers Be the Engineers of the Future” and a co-PI on the NSF-funded project “Might Young Makers Be the Engineers of the Future?”

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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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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. As part of an NSF-sponsored research project, we explore what it means to make.A review of definitions was undertaken via two methods. The first was convergent,relying on a literature review spanning several academic disciplines. The second meanswas divergent, collecting definitions via an ad-hoc, grounded, in-situ approach at tworecent Maker Faire events. Respondents were provided with post-it notes, posed with thequestions “What is Making?”, “What is engineering?”, and “Why are you attracted tomaking?”, and asked to contribute to a shared, public wall of multiple definitions. Bothapproaches yield information that can be used to characterize perceptions of making andcontribute to its definition. This analysis represents a second iteration and builds from acollection of post-its asking respondents to answer the question, “How do you defineMaking?”. 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. These methods helped to characterize making in a manner that can be useful to alarger study investigating the educational pathways of Makers. Using qualitative researchmethods of critical incident, artifact, and context elicitation interviews, we are developinga theory describing Makers and their engineering education pathways. Our primaryresearch questions are: What knowledge, skills, and attitudes do Makers possess that couldbe related to engineering? and How do pathways of Makers intersect with engineering? Thestudy will advance the currently limited knowledge of the Maker community bydeveloping theory characterizing Makers and their pathways through the lens of formalengineering education. The aim is to establish evidence as to how Makers embodyspecific attributes of the Engineer of 2020 and discover additional attributes of Makersthat could define the engineer of the future.

Heiman, A. M., & Lande, M., & Jordan, S. S. (2015, June), What is Making? What is Engineering? Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25062

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