Student Perceptions of the Makerspace use in Undergraduate Engineering Preparation Programs
Makerspaces, a location with tools (electronic and hand) for rapid prototyping, have become more widely used in undergraduate engineering preparation programs. There is a general expectation that students using the makerspaces will gain deeper knowledge of engineering and therefore, will be better prepared as engineering professionals.
We have been researching makerspaces for over 2 years, focusing primarily on faculty members and makerspace directors and staff. We have gathered some data from students via interviews, however, our student data has been rather limited to a few universities. We are seeking to expand our knowledge of engineering students’ perceptions, engagement, and learning in makerspaces. In our research on makerspaces, we have found issues associated with students’ motivation to learn, their perceptions and understanding of the work of engineers, potential access to the spaces, feelings of inclusion or belonging in the space and in the profession, and their development of engineering professional identity.
There is a lack of empirical data from multiple universities available to explain the variables that we have exposed through our research. Therefore, we are engaging in a large-scale data collection from students enrolled in undergraduate engineering preparation programs in which a makerspace is embedded within the college of engineering and has been in place for a minimum of 3 years. Using web searches, and other sources of information (e.g. references from other researchers or faculty members), we have identified 24 institutions that meet our criteria. While there are many more institutions with makerspaces that are available for engineering students, the spaces are also open to the general student body, and therefore, not embedded within a college of engineering and less likely to be integrated into the undergraduate engineering preparation program curriculum.
To gather our data, we created an online survey with a combination of quantitative and qualitative items. We aligned the survey items with variables of motivation, inclusion, belonging, professional knowledge, and professional identity, as associated with makerspaces. We validated our survey with an advisory board composed of members with expertise in making and engineering education. Based on their feedback, we made minor changes to our survey. We worked with Qualtrics to assemble a panel of undergraduates from our identified institutions to collect data.
We are currently in our data collection phase and will report the results in our report.
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