What can be learned from the Makers Movement to improve how engineering is taught?

Arizona State University engineering faculty members Micah Lande and Shawn Jordan will address the question July 24 at a National Science Foundation (NSF) workshop in Washington, D.C.

Lande and Jordan are assistant professors in the Polytechnic School, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. They will give one of eight presentations at the NSF event “Engineering and the Maker Movement: Intersections and Opportunities.”

Making activities focus on tinkering to help students and others experience the basic act of creating something, whether it’s a simple tool, an artifact or a complex system.

Events such as Maker Faires and makerspaces such as the TechShop at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center are attracting increasingly larger crowds. Colleges and universities, including ASU, now offer Maker-type summer programs for young students.

Jordan leads the STEAM Labs chain-reaction machine program (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and has an NSF Early CAREER Award to support a project to develop culturally contextualized, project-based engineering curriculum for the Navajo Nation.

Lande founded the first Maker Corps site in Arizona, a program of the Maker Education Initiative, and leads the Making + Tinkering programs at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center.

Lande and Jordan have been studying the movement and its growing impact on adult Makers and students under 18 years of age. As part of their research, they’ve interviewed about 50 people involved in major Maker groups and events about their creations and the paths that have led them to Making.

In their workshop presentation, they will tell NSF officials and colleagues that the Maker Movement helps people to develop practical ingenuity, creativity and a positive attitude toward learning.

Makers typically end up engaging in what Jordan and Lande call “additive innovation” as they form open social and intellectual communities and networks of knowledge sharing and learning.

They see the Maker Movement as a means to bring more hands-on experience into the engineering education enterprise – offering a pathway for students to pursue more STEAM learning and perhaps formal engineering education.

They plan to expand their studies by interviewing parents of students who have participated in Maker activities to get the parents’ opinions about the benefits of the movement.

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