Maker spaces have been hailed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education communities for presenting an opportunity to broaden participation of underrepresented groups by engaging them in open, creative, and supportive spaces for learning and applying practical STEM knowledge. Some have questioned the potential of these spaces as many maker and hacker spaces seem to be enacting certain norms that are more conducive to participation of white, male, middle-class, able-bodied hobbyists. However, there are spaces noted for participation homeless makers, women, people of color, and people with different kinds of abilities. This project considers how diverse maker spaces are conceived, constructed and operated to actively involve groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM, and collectively identify practices that can inform the design and operation of campus and community maker or hacker spaces that presently struggle to achieve diversity.
The research employs ethnographic methods and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to characterize spaces in terms of their physical and linguistic artifacts. Here we report results from preliminary research examining online and published artifacts from our cohort of diverse makerspaces in preparation for direct observations beginning in summer 2017.
Research questions explored through this first phase of the project include: (1) What practices and artifacts do participants in diverse maker and hacker spaces employ to establish and maintain environments that are diverse and inclusive? (2) What does the discourse in diverse maker and hacker spaces reveal about how meaning and value are co-constructed around identity, creativity, and the culture of production / the production of culture in engineering? (3) What best practices emerge from diverse maker and hacker spaces, and how can these translate to design or transformation of existing maker spaces on campuses and in communities?
Researchers and members of diverse maker and hacker spaces will use the findings from this project to co-construct strategies for (1) stimulating innovative design thinking in experiential curricula; (2) embedding inclusive practice that increase retention and broaden participation in STEM; (3) empowering citizen engineers through local and national networks of makers, students, and faculty; and (4) enabling new STEM and design pedagogies in progressive undergraduate learning environments that will enrich the U.S. innovation ecosystem.
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