Collaborative Research: University Maker Spaces: Discovery, Optimization and Measurement of Impacts
Continued innovation is essential to national security and economic growth. It is crucial that engineering education move beyond teaching engineering science and analysis: engineers must design, create, and innovate. This collaborative project by Georgia Tech, Texas State University - San Marcos, and James Madison University will measure the impact of university maker spaces and identify approaches and guidelines for designing maker spaces. A maker space is a location where the individuals who have a passion for innovation can access resources needed to freely invent and build physical objects and prototypes. In response to the success of community maker spaces outside of academic settings, many universities are moving beyond traditional machine shops and building multi-disciplinary maker space design centers. This study seeks to understand and use these new environments to achieve long-elusive aims in engineering education such as improving student retention, fostering diverse learning environments, and promoting multi-disciplinary teams. Maker spaces also have the potential to positively influence females and minorities, who are driven to pursue engineering by opportunities for creative thinking and human impact. This work will also investigate the potential of maker spaces to positively influence females and minorities and there by broaden participation in engineering.
The maker movement underway nationally has the potential to transform university engineering education. The movement is primarily originating outside of the university environment. This project will measure the impact that maker spaces have on engineering idea generation skills, design self-efficacy, retention and minority/female engagement. The project has two major research objectives. The first is to measure the impact of university maker spaces at Georgia Tech, James Madison University, and Texas State-San Marcos. Impact will be measured through engineering design self-efficacy; retention in the engineering major; and idea generation ability. Impacts will be measured at two levels. The first phase of the project will use a randomly assigned experimental design to assess the impact of early engagement on females and minorities through a longitudinal measurement. In the second level, maker space participants will be studied via a comparison between extensive users and those with minimal exposure. In this project, segment snapshots and longitudinal measurements will be combined. The second major research objective will be to identify approaches and guidelines for designing maker spaces. Once the effectiveness of a maker space is shown, the questions of how to replicate it in other places and how to improve existing university maker spaces will be addressed. In this phase a cross-university study of maker spaces will be undertaken. Key features will be determined and may include how these spaces are designed, the people attracted, and hours of operation. Through interviews, surveys and collection of publications, novel approaches and effective practices will be determined and disseminated.