Hands-on education — the integration of mind and hands — is often believed to transform the way that students think and learn. How and how much are students changed by hands-on education, and by what mechanisms do such transformations occur? This exploratory study considers 75 students in a 10-week engineering design and manufacturing course where, in many cases, students design and build a physical product for the first time. Students participate in labs through which they gain hands-on experience in milling, turning, forming, welding, and sand casting, among other manufacturing processes. Additionally, through several iterations of an individual project, each student builds a functional, high-fidelity, well- finished prototype of their own design. Drawing from Dewey alongside Lave and Wenger’s theories of learning through experience and participation in communities of practice, we observe how students engage their mind, hands, and heart in a makerspace environment and the subsequent changes that they experience. We hypothesize that greater integration of students’ mind, hands, and heart is associated with increased engineering task self-efficacy, innovation self-efficacy, engineering identity, and closeness of connection to a maker community. To examine these hypotheses, pre- and post-course surveys were administered in addition to written reflections throughout the course. Pre-post comparisons are performed on quantitative constructs and qualitative reflections contextualize the interpretation. Findings suggest that participation in this hands-on learning course is associated with large positive transformations in innovation self-efficacy, engineering task self-efficacy, and perceived connection between the self and maker community, and that these gains occur in all examined subgroups. On average, students report large increases in perceived connection between their “mind and hands” and “heart and hands,” with underrepresented minority (URM) women and non-URM men experiencing the largest increases in mind-hand-heart connection. Future research may examine how different groups of students, e.g. URM women, approach designing and making in academic makerspaces and how they come to perceive exceptional integration of mind, hand, and heart. Our findings also point to the underexplored and potentially substantial role of emotion in makerspace learning environments. These findings have implications for our understanding and support of designing and making in engineering education.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.