Paper ID #19355
Young Makers Becoming the Engineers of the Future and Implications
Dr. Micah Lande, Arizona State University
Micah Lande, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering pro-
grams and Tooker Professor at the Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at
Arizona State University. He teaches human-centered engineering design, design thinking, and design
innovation project courses. Dr. Lande researches how technical and non-technical people learn and apply
a design process to their work. He is interested in the intersection of designerly epistemic identities and
vocational pathways. Dr. Lande is the PI/co-PI on NSF-funded projects focused on engineering doing
and making, citizen science and engineering outreach, and ”revolutionizing” engineering education. He
has also been an instructor and participant in the NSF Innovation Corps for Learning program. He re-
ceived his B.S in Engineering (Product Design), M.A. in Education (Learning, Design and Technology)
and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (Design Education) from Stanford University.
Dr. Shawn S Jordan, Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus
SHAWN JORDAN, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of En-
gineering at Arizona State University. He teaches context-centered electrical engineering and embedded
systems design courses, and studies the use of context in both K-12 and undergraduate engineering design
education. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2010) and M.S./B.S. in Electrical and Com-
puter Engineering from Purdue University. Dr. Jordan is PI on several NSF-funded projects related to
design, including an NSF Early CAREER Award entitled ”CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo
Culture, Community, and Society” and ”Might Young Makers be the Engineers of the Future?,” and is a
Co-PI on the NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments grant ”Additive Innovation: An Educational
Ecosystem of Making and Risk Taking.” He was named one of ASEE PRISM’s ”20 Faculty Under 40” in
2014, and received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama
Dr. Jordan co-developed the STEAM LabsTM program to engage middle and high school students in
learning science, technology, engineering, arts, and math concepts through designing and building chain
reaction machines. He founded and led teams to two collegiate Rube Goldberg Machine Contest national
championships, and has appeared on many TV shows (including Modern Marvels on The History Channel
and Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC) and a movie with his chain reaction machines. He serves on the Board
of the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa, AZ, and worked as a behind-the scenes engineer for season 3 of the
PBS engineering design reality TV show Design Squad. He also held the Guinness World Record for the
largest number of steps – 125 – in a working Rube Goldberg machine.
American Society for Engineering Education, 2017
Young Makers Becoming the Engineers of the Future and Implications
The purpose of this NSF-funded study “Might Young Makers Be the Engineers of the Future?”
is to understand Young Makers in K-12 and how their knowledge, skills, and attitudes might
prepare them to pursue advanced STEM education and careers. Makers are an emerging
community of self-described DIY-enthusiasts, tinkerers and hobbyists. Makers embolden
characteristics from the Engineer of 20201 like practical ingenuity, creativity, and propensity
toward lifelong learning. Making is of particular interest to the field of engineering and to
engineering educators. The mission of this research is to develop a theory, inductively grounded
in data and deductively built on literature, illuminating the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of
Young Makers related to pathways forward to engineering and STEM-related majors and
careers. By describing educational pathways to or around formal engineering education, we will
better inform future innovations to improve the practical ingenuity and lifelong learning of our
future engineers. The specific research questions to be answered are: (RQ 1.) What knowledge,
skills, and attitudes do Young Makers possess that could be related to engineering? and (RQ 2.)
How do pathways of Young Makers intersect with engineering?
Using qualitative research methods of artifact elicitation and critical incident interviews, we are
developing a theory describing Young Makers and their preparation to pursue advanced STEM
education and careers. The interview protocols were based on themes that emerged from our
related Adult Maker study (EEC-1232772)2. After interviewing our first round of participants at
the Bay Area Maker Faire in May 2014, we discovered that parents and families were extremely
important to supporting Young Makers. We then expanded our interviews to start looking at
Maker Families, interviewing children about their experiences Making, parents about how they
support their kids in Making and what they think their kids are learning, and siblings (who are
often also Makers). We are continuing artifact elicitation interviews at Bay Area and World
Maker Faires in 2015 and 2016, and conducting follow-up critical incident interviews. Some
analysis has begun to support early publishing of conference papers, but we intend to fill out
sampling gaps prior to a deeper analysis across all participants. To date, 40 Young Makers and
22 parents have been interviewed at Maker Faire events.
Maker Theory: Additive Innovation
Findings from our qualitative artifact elicitation and critical incident interviews showed that
Makers demonstrate the characteristics of an Additive Innovation3,4 mindset that describes the
open community of sharing and learning that is in the Maker community. Introduced in this
paper as an umbrella concept, Additive Innovation is a mode of collaboration where participants
in a community are:
a) inspired by shared artifacts/ideas,
b) openly share (and learn about) technology and processes used to create these,
c) design and prototype own modified version of the shared artifact/idea, and
d) share their modified artifact/idea back with the community.
Learning Attributes of Making
Making is rooted in constructionism, learning by doing or Making and constructing knowledge
through that doing 5. Aspects of Making that could appear in the engineering classroom are
described in the following sections. Attributes of Making come directly from themes emerging
from our ongoing research 2-4, 6-11 listed in Table 1. These learning attributes are described more
fully in the authors recent work 12.
Table 1: Attributes/themes of Making and common definitions 12
of doing, quality of cleverness
of one, commit money
amusement, creative abilities
group of people, constructing
initiative, knowledge to acquire
Preliminary findings also indicate the critical and significant involvement of parents in the
additive innovation networks of Young Makers are a part. Parents of Young Makers enable
participation in making by supporting their children financially, technically, logistically, and
emotionally. They also have strong opinions about the benefit of Making for their kids, so we
plan to expand our interview strategy to include parents. This study will advance the currently
limited knowledge of the Young Maker community by developing theory characterizing Young
Makers and their pathways through the lens of formal engineering education. The aim is to
establish evidence as to how Making benefits Young Makers and affects their pathways to
STEM majors and related careers. By highlighting such connections, the results will inform
subsequent planned future research on the accreditation of informal and formal Maker activities.
This study could inform future innovation in formal K-12 STEM pedagogy based on successful
attributes of informal engineering education and tinkering activities. The results of this study will
transform the conversation of who Young Makers could become, linking Making with
engineering in the same way that students who excel in science and math are pointed toward
engineering by parents and career counselors. By sharing a diverse (by age, gender, ethnicity) set
of success profiles of Young Makers widely in the formal education system (to students, K-12
school administrators, university leaders, and admissions officers) and to Young Makers both
online and at Young Maker community events, we aim to illuminate pathways for Young
Makers to become the engineers of the future.
Future Role for Making in the Classroom
There is also an opportunity to place engineering Making and doing to into a formal classroom
learning environment in K-12 and undergraduate engineering program. Making-Based
Learning12 can support students in academic Makerspaces. Making may attract and recruit a
broader base of engineering students. An inversion of the values of engineering analysis and
engineering doing may be necessary to fully and authentically support the role of Making in the
classroom. At the very least, it is possible to imagine engineering curricular reform and support
for active and project-based learning wrapped up in Making-Based Learning. We have shared
learning attributes of making; it could be a useful intellectual exercise to consider how such
values are amplified or lessened within an engineering learning culture. The concept of additive
innovation is mentioned above. Can that be supported in K-12 and undergraduate learning
experiences? Is the current implementation more convergent and less exploratory in nature?
The study of Makers, Making and Making-Based Learning is a ripe opportunity for the
engineering education community to reflect on our approach to teaching and learning. Making-
Based Learning may already fit into some aspects of the engineering curriculum, such as first-
year Introduction to Engineering courses and project courses in programs with a project spine
(e.g., Arizona State University, Harvey Mudd College, Olin College). However, engineering
faculty critics of the Maker movement argue that Makers do not actively learn and apply
engineering fundamentals in their projects, thereby limiting the applicability and appropriateness
of Making-Based Learning pedagogical techniques in the engineering curriculum. We seek to
continue our research by better understanding the role and expectations of Making in the formal
engineering setting through future case study examples and to better capture and understand
perceptions of Making by engineering faculty. Making may offer new opportunities to engage
young people in STEM majors and careers and stretch the bounds of how we conceive of
engineering and engineering learning.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No.
1329321 “Might Young Makers Be the Engineers of the Future?” The authors also gratefully
acknowledge the participants in this study and the contributions of our research team.
1. Clough, G. W. “The engineer of 2020: Visions of engineering in the new century.” National Academy of
Engineering, Washington, DC 2004.
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International Journal of Engineering Education. 32-2. May/June 2016.
3. Lande, M., and Jordan, S. “Methods for examining the educational pathways of adult makers.” In proceedings
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4. Lande, M. & Jordan, S. “What Do Young Makers Learn?” In proceedings of 2016 American Society for
Engineering Education Conference. 2016. New Orleans, LA.
5. Papert, S., & Harel, I. Situating constructionism. Constructionism, 36, 1–11. 1991.
6. McKenna, A., Kellam, N., Lande, M., Brunhaver, S., Jordan, S., Bekki, J., Carberry, A. and London, J.
“Instigating a Revolution of Additive Innovation.” In proceedings of American Society for Engineering
Education Conference. 2016. New Orleans, LA.
7. Foster, C., Lande, M. & Jordan, S. “An Ethos of Sharing in the Maker Community.” Proceedings of American
Society for Engineering Education Conference. 2014.
8. Jordan, S. & Lande, M. “Work in Progress: Should Makers Be the Engineers of the Future?” Proceedings of
Frontiers in Education Conference. 2013.
9. Lande, M. & Jordan, S. “Making It Together, Locally: A Making Community Learning Ecology in the
Southwest.” Proceedings of Frontiers in Education Conference. Madrid, Spain. 2014.
10. Lande, M., Jordan, S. & Nelson, J. “Defining Makers Making: Emergent Practice and Emergent Meaning.”
Proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education Conference. 2014.
11. Oplinger, J., Lande, M., Jordan, S. & Camarena, L. Leadership characteristics in the making community.
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12. Lande, M., Jordan, S., & Weiner, S. Making people and projects: Implications for making-based learning.
ASEE Pacific Southwest Conference. Tempe, AZ. 2017.