Project: Research project

Project Details


MIGHT YOUNG MAKERS BE THE ENGINEERS OF THE FUTURE MIGHT YOUNG MAKERS BE THE ENGINEERS OF THE FUTURE? MIGHT YOUNG MAKERS BE THE ENGINEERS OF THE FUTURE? I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether its science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent to be makers of things, not just consumers of things. President Barack Obama (The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 2009) We can probably all recall a childhood friend who was a maker of things. They might have built Lego towers or customized their bicycle. While sometimes they succeeded in carrying their practical ingenuity to a STEM major or career, they often lacked requisite resources to fully realize their dreams. Building on the work understanding student engineering pathways, our research seeks to examine the community of self-described Young Makers engaged in informal engineering education and tinkering activities to create technical artifacts. As Young Makers embolden the Engineer of 2020 characteristics of practical ingenuity, creativity, and propensity toward lifelong learning, we pose the following question: Might Young Makers be the engineers of the future? Under a theoretical framework of constructivist grounded theory and a parallel inductivedeductive theory-generating design, this study will use the qualitative research methods of artifact elicitation and critical incident interviews to develop a theory describing what Young Makers learn and how their pathways might intersect with formal engineering education. Our primary research questions are: RQ1. What knowledge, skills, and attitudes do Young Makers possess that could be related to engineering? (Young Makers as engineers) RQ2. How do pathways of Young Makers intersect with engineering? (Young Makers pathways to engineering) This study is guided by the conceptual frameworks of Blooms revised taxonomy and pathways theory, which combined provide a valuable basis for the deductive analysis of interview data. A total of 40 self-identified Young Maker participants will be sampled purposefully and stratified by experience (through their formal engineering education, informal engineering education and tinkering activities) and membership in an underrepresented group based on ethnicity and gender. Intellectual Merit: 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. Broader Impact: 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. In addition, this study could inform future innovation in formal K-12 STEM pedagogy based on successful attributes of informal engineering education and tinkering activities.
Effective start/end date9/1/138/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $300,000.00


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