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WORK IN PROGRESS: Design, Creation and Assessment of Innovation Spaces Across an Engineering Campus

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Maker Spaces within the University

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Jenifer Blacklock Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Jenifer Blacklock is the Assistant Department Head in the Mechanical Engineering department at Colorado School of Mines. Jenifer is active in the Undergraduate Curriculum in the Mechanical Engineering department and is an advocate of using hands-on-learning tools to help develop strong math, science and engineering foundations.

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Stephanie Ann Claussen Colorado School of Mines

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Stephanie Claussen’s experience spans both engineering and education research. She obtained her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. Her Ph.D. work at Stanford University focused on optoelectronics, and she continues that work in her position at the Colorado School of Mines, primarily with the involvement of undergraduate researchers. In her role as an Associate Teaching Professor, she is primarily tasked with the education of undergraduate engineers. In her courses, she employs active learning techniques and project-based learning. Her previous education research, also at Stanford, focused on the role of cultural capital in science education. Her current interests include engineering students' development of social responsibility and the impact of students' backgrounds in their formation as engineers.

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The Maker movement has expanded over the last several years from the garages of at-home tinkerers to university engineering programs. A “maker” identity has been associated with specific attitudes and abilities, such as creativity, the ability to create physical models, and the embracing of failure, which engineering educators are now striving to foster in their students and throughout curricula.1-3 Over the past ten years, makerspaces, or innovation spaces, have been developed at several universities across the United States through a range of efforts, both grassroots via faculty and student efforts, and institution-led. There have even been recently published best practices for designing these spaces within a university. 4 This work-in-progress paper focuses on one university’s story of implementing makerspaces throughout a campus. It also contains initial data on how these spaces affect students’ abilities to solve open-ended design challenges in the Mechanical Engineering department and will be later assessed in the Electrical Engineering department as well. The Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Departments at Colorado School of Mines have developed several high-tech and low-tech makerspaces for undergraduate students. These spaces are being utilized for classroom use and for club and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. We have implemented state-of-the-art machine shops and prototyping labs throughout campus, funded by a combination of internal grants and industry support. These makerspaces have been grassroots efforts, started by both students and faculty in response to student requests for more incorporation of hands-on projects throughout the ME and EE curriculums and for spaces for students to use in their own time.

Due to the range of methods used to develop each of these spaces (spanning faculty-driven, administration-initiated, and faculty-student collaboration), we are in a unique position to document the processes and challenges of creating such spaces and the student-learning objectives achieved both within and outside the curriculum. In addition, each space is set up and used in a different way (an open, 24/7 accessible space versus a supervised space, a lab used for both instruction and student projects compared to one intended entirely for student use). This enables us to assess the impact of different forms of makerspaces on student outcomes such as confidence in hands-on projects and engineering design self-efficacy. The need for an understanding like this has been underlined by others in the field.2 In addition, the ME department has had an on-going IRB-approved study focusing on students’ abilities to understand design and to solve open-ended design challenges. This study has shown powerful results as it began before makerspaces were incorporated throughout the college and campus. It focuses on identifying which courses students have completed, which innovation spaces students have used, what the students’ background is, and how students identify with an engineering design process. We have done both quantitative as well as quantitative analysis on students’ confidence and ability to solve open-ended design challenges. By understanding where the student is in the curriculum along with what their background is (ie: internship, work experience, course work), we will be better able to understand how the makerspaces impact students’ abilities to solve problems. By learning from our failures and documenting success, we have learned a tremendous amount about how to implement successful working makerspaces within a short time frame. In this paper, we begin by describing the context for this effort at Colorado School of Mines and the various spaces that have been developed. We then compare each lab in detail, highlighting a few key differences. Finally, we discuss briefly efforts to assess the impact on student outcomes.

Blacklock, J., & Claussen, S. A. (2016, June), WORK IN PROGRESS: Design, Creation and Assessment of Innovation Spaces Across an Engineering Campus Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27217

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