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University Makerspaces: More Than Just Toys

[+] Author Affiliations
Ethan C. Hilton, Julie S. Linsey

Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Shaunna F. Smith, Kimberly G. Talley

Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

Robert L. Nagel

James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Paper No. DETC2018-86311, pp. V003T04A010; 8 pages
  • ASME 2018 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 3: 20th International Conference on Advanced Vehicle Technologies; 15th International Conference on Design Education
  • Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, August 26–29, 2018
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5178-4
  • Copyright © 2018 by ASME


University makerspaces are growing increasingly in vogue, especially in Colleges of Engineering, but there is little empirical evidence in the literature that these spaces impact the students. Speculations have been made about these spaces creating a community of practice, improving retention, improving design skills and self-efficacy, teaching manufacturing skills, improving creativity, and providing many other benefits, but this has not been empirically documented. This paper compares student engineering design self-efficacy (i.e., confidence, motivation, expectation of success, and anxiety toward conducting engineering design) to reported usage rates from a makerspace at a large Hispanic-serving university in the Southwestern United States. Not all users of these spaces were engineering students, and as such, responses were examined through the context of student major as well as differences in gender, race/ethnicity, or first-generation college student status. Design self-efficacy is critical because when individuals have high self-efficacy for particular skills they tend to seek more opportunities to apply those skills, and show more perseverance in the face of set-backs. Thus, self-efficacy is often a good predictor of achievement. The results from one year of data at the Hispanic-serving university indicate that female and first-generation college students have significantly lower engineering design self-efficacy scores. The data also shows that being a user of the makerspace correlates to a higher confidence, motivation, and expectation of success toward engineering design. Initial data from two additional schools are also consistent with these same results. These results indicate that, for all students, regardless of race/ethnicity and/or first generation status, being a frequent user of a university-serving makerspace likely positively impacts confidence, motivation, and expectation of success toward engineering design.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME



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