Research and Scholarship

Exploring Access to University Makerspaces


 
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JMU Engineering and Honors student Kelly Sadel working in the Fabrication Lab

SUMMARY: Faculty from the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering partnered with colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology to better understand how women access makerspace resources in university settings and negotiate barriers to their participation.


Faculty from the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering partnered with colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology to better understand how women access makerspace resources in university settings and negotiate barriers to their participation. This research, led by Professor of Communication Studies Melissa Alemán and Associate Professor of Engineering Robert Nagel, builds on a multi-year, $156,263-National Science Foundation grant award, which supports an investigation into the relationship between student learning, creativity and expertise built within makerspaces at the two universities. 

Nagel commented, “From our research, we now understand what students are learning through making and makerspace engagement during engineering studies at two different universities. Publication of our typology of student learning through making is forthcoming. Beyond understanding student learning through making, our research has allowed us to understand some of the barriers…young women face in their journeys into engineering, making and makerspaces.” 

The research group authored their findings in the article, “Participation Pathways for Women into University Makerspaces,” in The Research Journal for Engineering Education. Along with emphasizing the importance of connecting personal passions to making and engineering, developing meaningful relationships with mentors, and improving makerspace visibility and engagement, this research highlights how women makers confront and resist gendered barriers and expectations.

Additionally, the JMU team again joined partners from Georgia Tech to present the paper, “Comparison of Student Learning in Two Makerspace Communities,” at the 2021 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference last July. JMU Engineering and Honors student Kelly Sadel (’22) participated in this engaged learning research experience. 

Sadel shared these thoughts about being part of the research team: “I really enjoyed working on this project as I was able to not only begin to understand [maker] parts of student experiences but felt as though I was put into the conversations with the students. During the process, I naturally compared other students' experiences to mine, which made the work even more interesting to me. Working with the primary author to analyze the data was a valuable experience. I have worked on numerous projects with others in the past, but not in such a way as this. This required collaboration on a different level than what I have previously experienced.”  

Sadel will continue her education as a graduate student studying Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech.

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Published: Thursday, May 5, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2022

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