My connection with makerspaces is back to three years ago when I was a first-year doctoral student. I was fascinated by the idea of making, makerspaces, and innovative learning environment. At that time, I had an opportunity to work as the program coordinator for an NSF funded grant project entitled Principles for the equitable design of digitally distributed, studio-based STEM learning environments. As part of this grant, I conducted a comprehensive literature review and co-organized a 3-day interactive workshop that brought together researchers and practitioners, discussing principles for Equity-centered design of STEAM learning through making.
Through the CRAFT Research Collaboration Network, we aim to connect researchers and practitioners who work at the intersection of equity and interdisciplinary education in STEM together to pursue common research questions and forge new partnerships. We have disseminated survey questions to understand the current state of the field about making, equity, and STEM learning. We also conducted steering committee meetings and had a conversation around making cultures, practices, and STEM education across the country. These efforts provided me a new angle to think about what making really means to people and how it impacts teaching and learning.
Making is a form of inquiry, which roots deeply in people’s daily life and manifests people’s goals, hopes and dreams. As a part of the RCN project, this local effort broadens our conventional view on making and STEM education and motivates us to further explore how to promote equity-centered making practices to serve youth, especially from historically marginalized communities.
I think the most valuable experience I gained is to work with experienced researchers. From them, I learned how to operationalize a research project, how to collaboratively work with peers and colleagues, and how to honor multiple perspectives. The mentorship I had is priceless in my research journey. No research is ever quite complete. This one-year research experience under the grant opened the way to continuously pursue my research interest.