Contributed by Edmond Dougherty. This article originally appeared in KEEN Annual Report, 2019-2020. Reprinted with permission.
For hands-on, minds-on learning, a makerspace offers a lot of opportunities. But how do you shape your culture so faculty are comfortable creating assignments where engineering students do substantive work in the space?
Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) is working on this challenge, partnering with three other KEEN partners to create meaningful opportunities for faculty and staff to leverage makerspaces for entrepreneurially minded learning (EML).
To support project-based learning, most engineering schools have established one or more student-centered facilities, commonly called makerspaces, that allow students to move their ideas to reality through hands-on experiences. Makerspaces provide students with instruction, supervision, and safe access to a wide variety of making devices that range from traditional shop tools to advanced technologies such as machine learning and virtual reality systems.
Florida Tech intends to establish EML as part of the fabric of the university maker movement.
Dr. Chiradeep Sen notes, “In engineering, making is an integral part of learning. In our project, we are asking how we can make student learning in the makerspace more impactful. How can we make EML more formal through the development of makerspace-oriented teaching tools?”
Florida Tech assistant professor, Dr. Kimberly Demoret, further explains, “Florida Tech faculty surveyed the Network to investigate how schools were using makerspaces. Then they selected ten schools that represented the full spectrum of Network maker activities. We visited these schools to tour facilities, collect best practices, and interview faculty and staff about their makerspace experiences.”
From this data, Florida Tech recruited the University of Denver, Lawrence Technological University, and George Fox University to showcase how teaching tools could be developed and used across very different institutions. Together, these KEEN partners are developing, testing, and evaluating EML-related curricular modules that integrate making assignments.
Florida Tech’s Dr. Robert Weaver states, “We are developing tools to enable making in courses where it previously wouldn’t be found – a Fluid Dynamics course, for example, where students create a mini-hydropower generator that they can attach to a water faucet. Also, we are focused on first-year and sophomore experiences to ensure our students are involved in making early in their academic careers.”
The project team ensures transferability and scalability by using the modules in various settings and sharing feedback. This will inform the instructor guides and allow for continuous improvement.
The goal for Florida Tech and its partner schools is to graduate engineering students with extensive practical experience that builds skillset and mindset. Makerspaces are an underutilized resource, and these teaching tools will hopefully inspire others to use and improve on them for the benefit of KEEN engineering graduates.
As the project proceeds, the partners use Engineering Unleashed Cards to share information about making:
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