The rise of the “Maker Movement” – a community of engineers, hobbyists, artists, and tinkerers committed to designing, building and repurposing material objects – has generated substantial interest in the engineering education community. “Making” is often creative and playful, yet also technically sophisticated and ambitious. Because these attributes are often missing in K-12 settings, many educators are eager to incorporate making into the curriculum to engage young people in design and engineering work in new ways, thus expanding pathways to engineering.
Efforts to bring making into schools are constrained by a lack of understanding of when and why making supports learning and development, how to measure learning through making, and how to best translate out-of-school practices into the school context. This study investigates making in educational settings by pursuing two primary research questions: 1) When and how does making foster students’ abilities to adapt and learn when facing novel engineering and design problems (i.e., adaptive expertise)? 2) When and how does making transform students’ sense of themselves and their future plans related to engineering?
The study incorporates three distinctive elements. First, it examines youth making in school and in out-of-school contexts. This allows us to understand and build from successful out-of-school programs, and identify constraints and affordances unique to each environment. Second, we designed and built a mobile maker studio, in the model of a bookmobile. This allows us to expand access to making by bringing sophisticated tools and materials to traditionally underrepresented and underserved student populations. Third, we have developed cognitive tools to scaffold students’ engagement in engineering and design practices and habits of mind (e.g., tools to support documentation and reflection in project work). In this poster presentation, we will focus on identity shifts in two focal students who participated in the first round of the study.
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