MAKERSPACE: Making for STEM Learning and Engagement (SRET 2019)

Research Summary Poster


  • Nakisha Cornelius, Pre-K Teacher, Ashley Park School
  • LaKeesha Henderson, Media Coordinator, Ashley Park School
  • Johanna Okerland, PhD Student, UNC Charlotte
  • David Wilson, Professor, Computing and Informatics, UNC Charlotte

Project Focus

In this project, teachers will be taught basic principles of digital design and fabrication through hands-on lab activities in the college Makerspace (e.g., 2D/3D modeling, 3D printing, laser cutting, manipulatives, basic electronics, Arduino/Raspberry Pi). These beginning hands-on lab activities are based on existing training and workshop materials currently used in the Makerspace. Teachers will work with Dr. David Wilson and a graduate student in computer science to conduct research on STEM learning within academic Makerspaces, including development and evaluation of new activities and studying the relationship between informal and formal learning within such environments. As part of the research, teachers will focus on a particular STEM learning topic or challenge problem and develop novel Making activities to ground the fundamental STEM concepts and related design thinking. The research will involve piloting the activities and user study evaluation with student users of the Makerspace. Expected outcomes are: (1) an understanding of academic makerspaces, and how such a space may be developed or used as a teaching resource in the teacher’s own institution; (2) a new set of Making activities that can be used for STEM learning and engagement in the college Makerspace as well as brought back to the teacher’s classroom; (3) research results that may be submitted for publication.

Research Abstract

Pre-Kindergarten is the foundation of formal education. A necessary introduction to the classroom setting, it sets young scholars on a 13 year journey to success. In certain definitions of “Makerspace,” the Pre-K classroom could be considered a maker space in itself. Children are always encouraged to “tinker” and construct things with little to no direction; in order to build confidence and gain the necessary skills to grow and meet required curriculum goals. Even with the environment of encouraging students to enhance their cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills, there are certain barriers that must be assessed on a pre-K level.

In addition to meeting curriculum requirements, successfully engaging 3D modeling and printing at the pre-K level should spark an interest in using 3D printers and other makerspace items and encourage a young generation of computational thinkers. Strategically implementing maker spaces in order to enhance students’ cognitive and physical skills can be measured by students achieving their learning objectives. An example of a physical objective of pre K students is proficient use of fingers and hands and refined wrist and finger movements. During the lesson, the students will be given opportunities to use their fingers and hands in all steps of the 3D printing process. A cognitive goal for the students is to persist and to be able to plan and pursue a variety of appropriately challenging tasks while a language goal for the students is to follow two-step directions. Throughout the 3D modeling and printing process the students will work on following multiple step directions from the facilitator helping break developmental barriers of teaching pre-K students. An extent of these barriers, which can be fine motor skills such as using a computer mouse or loading filament into a 3D printer, will be modified by using an iPad for the Tinkercad computer program and all 3D printing processes will be obtained using the help of the teacher or facilitator.