As stated in my Self-Assessment and Reflection, I have been working in informal education for years. This has been a passion of mine that I didn’t know how to integrate into my computer engineering work. Luckily, at UMBC, I have been able to do work that perfectly combines all of my interests. Following, I present how I envision my dissertation to combine my interests into one cohesive project.
The focus of my dissertation will be on creating equitable and accessible makerspaces in community rec centers. The framing of work will be around design justice and aligning makerspace development decisions with the social justice movements in their surrounding communities.
Previous Work in this Area
Digital Fabrication for Assistive Technologies
Previous research has shown that consumer-grade fabrication methods (e.g., 3D printing) can improve AT development and production [1-4]. Despite this, the research also identified that current fabrication tools and processes are not inclusive of people without prior technical expertise and that without stakeholder involvement at all levels of fabrication, design, and implementation, important challenges in integrating these techniques into therapy and medicine remain [1, 4].
In the last few decades, several online communities of makers interested in creating customized ATs have formed [2, 5]. There have been successful outcomes within these communities, but previous research has also shown a tension between the priorities of hobbyists and makers and those of clinicians and therapists . This can be described as a tension between “help where you can” and “do no harm.”
Other previous research has investigated educating PT students in 3D printing in order to allow them to create custom 3D printed solutions [3, 7]. It was difficult to adequately teach PT students the CAD skills required to create DIY-AT devices, however. A follow up study connected PT students, makers, and people with disabilities to create custom DIY-AT within the context of a PT classroom. This was done to leverage the skills of each stakeholder in order to reduce the amount of knowledge needed outside of their own domain. This proved to be effective. However, the iterative nature of digital fabrication is difficult to implement within a medical context. This led to end users not providing as much feedback as would be expected when co-designing custom AT. The complete disconnect from the space of the makers and lack of shared understanding of each other’s expertise led to multiple communication problems through the process, as well .
We have yet to discover how to make digital fabrication tools more accessible to individuals with disabilities. We have also not found a way to allow multiple experts (makers, clinicians, and people with disabilities) to easily collaborate, iterate, and communicate about their DIY-AT needs and goals. This project endeavors to begin developing an understanding of what is needed to facilitate development of low stakes AT in an accessible location. The utilization of a university makerspace was investigated as a potential solution due to the fact that universities often bring together experts of many disciplines within one location and was suggested as a possible solution in .
 is my previous publication in this field that I have extended since publishing.
Equity and participation in learning through making
The HCI community has been investigating participatory approaches to technology-rich learning, including through working with hands-on self-directed projects in the context of makerspaces or maker-based learning programs, for several decades (e.g., [8, 9, 10, 11]). These activities have been shown to engage a diverse population of learners and to increase technical and social skills in formal and informal learning environments [12-14]. Research has shown that participating in maker activities can have several positive learning outcomes, including technology self-efficacy [9, 15], technological awareness and confidence , and general and declarative knowledge of technical systems [17, 18]. Making is largely thought to be driven by learner interests  and open to all participants, including those who may not have prior experience with STEM disciplines or think of themselves as being good at science or technology , leading to an increase in learner agency  and overall STEM learning .
While makerspaces have been lauded as potential equalizers of STEM education for underserved youth since first introduced, research has shown that prevalent maker practices can be exclusionary and inequitable [23, 24, 25]. Specifically, researchers have pointed out that makerspace education often ignores the history of making in native, working class, and people of color’s communities, resulting in a lack of recognition of forms of making and creativity that do not follow prescriptive mainstream images of innovation [24, 25].This lack of recognition can result in challenges for underserved youth to see themselves as makers and assumptions by educators of a lack of interest in making within these communities . Researchers also cite the basis of some of these issues in centering capitalistic values , with makerspaces historically catering primarily to the interests of middle-class white males with disposable income and time [24, 26, 27]. Therefore, while critics of making acknowledge its potential for engaging diverse populations and resulting in desired learning outcomes, they also posit that these successes are possible, only when equity is an explicit goal when designing makerspaces and maker-based learning programs [28-30], community members provide input into the content and format of the programs and serve as educators [31, 32], and when creating for the makerspace follows an assets-based approach that values and incorporates community and cultural assets [8, 33]. This ensures that the making that is already being done within the community is integrated and highlighted by the introduction of new technologies. These practices have been proven to be effective for encouraging involvement and increasing self-esteem for diverse populations, including women , ethnic minorities , and youth in urban contexts .
Another related HCI research direction is investigating participatory design approaches for creating learning experiences for youth, children, and adults [11, 36, 37-39] and creating innovative interactive systems used for learning experiences [10, 40, 41]. By extending the domain of Scandinavian Participatory Design from the workplace to learning contexts, this direction aims to support practice by “addressing the needs of learners in ways that learners can identify with, that teachers or facilitators find useful, and that are consistent with the culture of the community .” Key questions in this space are concerned with how to effectively incorporate direct stakeholder input into program designs and how to ensure findings are transferable to different sites.
Formal assessments in informal environments
Conducting quantitative assessments, such as surveys, of youth learning in informal learning environments has proven to be a difficult problem. Specifically, youth are resistant to the introduction of formal evaluation in these environments resulting in negative attitudes towards surveys preference for methods that require creativity and self-expression [42, 43]. Additionally, research indicates that assessments that focus on isolated skills or attitudes lead to systematic undermeasurement of learning since they do not view learning activities holistically and as accomplished by participants drawing on material and human resources in their environment . Furthermore, previous research has recommended using observations to assess the level of excitement, how well youth are understanding the content, the conversations and social interactions in the space, and the youth’s reflections on the new concepts to assess learning outcomes [43, 45].
Despite ongoing efforts to develop more context-sensitive approaches to assessment, existing tools are not created to be used within community recreation centers or with an explicit focus on equity. In our study, we also aimed to combine multiple data collection methods to better understand program learning outcomes and identify context-sensitive, equity-focused assessment tools for measuring them in the future.
I have just had a paper accepted to the CHI 2023 conference in which I detail the outcomes from our first round of curriculum delivered in makerspaces in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. This paper highlights major issues in evaluating through surveys as well as proposes a model for implementing equity-based pedagogy within a community rec center space.
My Proposed Research Questions and Methodology
Moving forward, I would like to further evaluate the model presented in our publication on the first iteration of the rec-to-tech project. Baltimore City is currently in the process of opening a new rec center in the Cherry Hill neighborhood that will have a makerspace. They are currently working on staffing and logistical set up of this space. I feel it is the perfect space to investigate three things:
- Is the thematic model proposed from our intital iteration valid in this new context and what updates need to be made?
- Are padlets a successful format for generating youth feedback and data?
- And more generally, what are the barriers and facilitators to the process of setting up a makerspace in a community rec center?
To answer these questions, I propose utilizing an ethnographic approach. The main focus of ethnographies is “its focus on human society and culture” . And culture here is defined as “the beliefs, values, and attitudes that structure the behavior patterns of a specific group of people” . This method is approriate because I would be deeply studying and generating a “thick description” of the individuals and characteristics of one specific rec creation center. The main methods used would be participant observation within the space, semi-structured interviews with the staff, educators, administrators, and youth, and document review of any curriculum that is created or modified for the space. Another interesting research output would be artifacts generated by the space. Any use of the makerspace by the community for creating objects for personal use or economic reasons would be very interesting to study. The needs and interests gathered from my study would be shared with those in charge of the space to see how it affects the type of programming they offer within the space and to hopefully allow my study to benefit the individuals within the space. Baltimore City has had a historically difficult relationship with local universities. Because of this, I would ensure that my focus is not just on collecting data, but generating information and resources that actually benefit the members of the community that I am working with.
As I have already published two preliminary works on this topic, I am hoping to write and defend my proposal by the end of 2023. My currently proposed methodology is ethnography. Ethnography takes a long time and generates a huge amount of data. As I already have established relationships, that will not be an issue, but I am hoping to spend 6 months to 1 year working very closely with the Cherry Hill Rec Center as they establish their makerspace and programming. This means that I will not complete my data collection until winter or early spring of 2024. I am hopeful that I will then spend the bulk of 2024 analyzing my data and writing my disseration with a goal of defending in spring 2025.
 Jennifer Mankoff, et al. 2019. Consumer-Grade Fabrication and Its Potential to Revolutionize Accessibility. Communications of the ACM, 62(10): 64-75.
 Buehler, E., et. al. 2015. Sharing is caring: Assistive technology designs on Thingiverse. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘15). ACM, New York, NY, 525-534.
 Samantha McDonald, et. al. 2016. Uncovering challenges and opportunities for 3D printing assistive technology with physical therapists. In Proceedings of the 18th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS ‘16). ACM, New York, NY, 131-139.
 Erin Higgins, William B. Easley, Karen L. Gordes, Amy Hurst, and Foad Hamidi. 2022. Creating 3D Printed Assistive Technology Through Design Shortcuts: Leveraging Digital Fabrication Services to Incorporate 3D Printing into the Physical Therapy Classroom. In Proceedings of the 24th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS ‘22). ACM, New York, NY, 1-16.
 Jeremiah Parry-Hill, Patrick C. Shih, Jennifer Mankoff, and Daniel Ashbrook. 2017. Understanding Volunteer AT Fabricators: Opportunities and Challenges in DIY-AT for Others in e-NABLE. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘17). ACM, New York, NY, 6184–6194.
 Megan Hofmann, et. al. Clinical and maker perspectives on the design of assistive technology with rapid prototyping technologies. In 18th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS ‘16). ACM, New York, NY, 6 pages.
 Karen Gordes and Sandy McCombe Waller. 2019. Novel partnerships for interprofessional education: A pilot education program in 3D technologies for human centered computing students and physical therapy students. Journal of Interprofessional Education & Practice, 15: 15-18.
 Wong-Villacres, M., DiSalvo, C., Kumar, N., DiSalvo, B. Culture in Action: Unpacking Capacities to Inform Assets-Based Design. in CHI’20: 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2020.
 Chu, S.S., L., R., Quek, F., Christy, A., and Chen, K. ‘I Make, Therefore I Am’: The Effects of Curriculum-Aligned Making on Children’s Self-Identity. in 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2017.
 Walsh, G., Foss, E., Yip, J., Druin, A., FACIT PD: a framework for analysis and creation of intergenerational techniques for participatory design, in SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘13). 2013, Association for Computing Machinery. p. 2893-2902.
 Scaife, M., Rogers, Y., Aldrich, F., Davies, M. Designing for or designing with? Informant design for interactive learning environments. in ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ‘97). 1997. Association for Computing Machinery.
 Blikstein, P.K., D. The makers’ movement and FabLabs in educations: experiences, technologies, and research. in 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children. 2013.
 A Framework for P-12 Engineering Learning: A defined and cohesive eduactional foundation for P-12 engineering, in Advancing Excellence in P-12 Engineering Education & American Society of Engineering Education. 2020, American Society of Engineering Education.
 Forest, C.R., Moore, R. A., Jariwala, A. S., Fasse, B. B., Linsey, J., Newstetter, W., Ngo, P., and Quintero, C., The Invention Studio: A University Maker Space and Culture. Advances in Engineering Education, 2014. 4(2).
 Blikstein, P., Martinez, S. L., and Pang, H. A., Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspirations for Fab Labs and Makerspaces. 2016: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
 Ryoo, J.J., Kali, L., Bevan, B. Equity-Oriented Pedagogical Strategies and Student Learning in After School Making. in 6th Annual Conference on Creativity and Fabrication in Education (FabLearn ‘16). 2016. Association for Computing Machinery.
 Papavlasopoulou, S., M.N. Giannakos, and L. Jaccheri, Empirical studies on the Maker Movement, a promising approach to learning: A literature review. Entertainment Computing, 2017. 18: p. 57-78.
 Hamner, E.L., T., Bernstein, D., Nourbakhsh, I. R., and DiSalvo, C. F. Robot Diaries: Broadening Participation in the Computer Science Pipeline through Social Technical Exploration. in AAAI spring symposium: using AI to motivate greater participation in computer science. 2008.
 Resnick, M., and Silverman, B. Some reflections on designing construction kits for kids. in Interaction Design and Children Conference. 2005. Boulder, CO.
 Ryoo, J.J. and A.C. Barton, Equity in STEM-rich Making: Pedagogies and Designs. Equity & Excellence in Education, 2018. 51(1): p. 3-6.
 Kajamaa, A. and K. Kumpulainen, Agency in the making: analyzing students’ transformative agency in a school-based makerspace. Mind Culture and Activity, 2019. 26(3): p. 266-281.
 Bevan, B., et al., Learning Through STEM-Rich Tinkering: Findings From a Jointly Negotiated Research Project Taken Up in Practice. Science Education, 2015. 99(1): p. 98-120.
 Vossoughi, S., and Gutiérrez, K., Studying movement, hybridity, and change: Toward a multi-sited sensibility for research on learning across contexts and borders. National Society for the Study of Education, 2014. 113(2): p. 603-632.
 Okerlund, J., Wilson, D., Latulipe, C., A Feminist Utopian Perspective on the Practice and Promis of Making, in CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2021, Association for computing Machinery. p. 1-16.
 Rosner, D.K.F., S. E., Legacies of craft and the centrality of failure in a mother-operated hackerspace. New Media and Society, 2016. 18(4): p. 558-580.
 Vossoughi, S., P.K. Hooper, and M. Escude, Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity. Harvard Educational Review, 2016. 86(2): p. 206-232.
 Chachra, D., Why I am not a maker. The Atlantic, 2015. 23.
 Archer, L., et al., Changing the field: A Bourdieusian analysis of educational practices that support equitable outcomes among minoritized youth on two informal science learning programs. Sci Educ, 2021. 105(1): p. 166-203.
 Wong-Villacres, M., Jumar, A., Vishwanath, A., Karusala, N., Di Salvo, B. J., Kumar, N. Designing for Intersections. in DIS’18: 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference. 2018.
 Barton, A.C. and E. Tan, A Longitudinal Study of Equity-Oriented STEM-Rich Making Among Youth From Historically Marginalized Communities. American Educational Research Journal, 2018. 55(4): p. 761-800.
 Bell, P., Lewenstein, B., Shouse, A. W., & Feder, M., Diversity and Equity, in Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. 2009, National Research Council of the National Academies: Washington, D.C. p. 209-246.
 Principles for Equity-centered design of STEAM learning-through-making, ed. J. Castek, Schira Hagerman, M., and Woodard, R. 2019, Tuscon: University of Arizona.
 Barton, A.C., E. Tan, and D. Greenberg, The Makerspace Movement: Sites of Possibilities for Equitable Opportunities to Engage Underreptresented Youth in STEM. Teachers College Record, 2017. 119.
 Norris, A., Make-Her-Spaces as Hybrid Places: Designing and Resisting Self Constructions in Urban Classrooms. Equity & Excellence in Education, 2014. 47(1): p. 63-77.
 Jordan, S.S., et al., Results from the Implementation of Culturally-relevant Engineering Design Curriculum for the Navajo Nation and Future Directions, in American Society for Engineering Education. 2018: Salt Lake City, UT.
 DiSalvo, B., Yip, J., Bonsignore, E. and Carl, D., Participatory design for learning, in Participatory design for learning 2017, Routledge. p. 3-6.
 DiSalvo, B.a.D., K., Participatory design for value-driven learning, in Participatory Design for Learning 2017, Routledge. p. 175-188.
 Ackermann, E., Decortis, F., Hourcade, J. P., Schelhowe, H. Cultural coding and de-coding as ways of participation: digital media for marginalized young people. in 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ‘09). 2009. Association for Computing Machinery.
 Yip, J., Clegg, T., Bonsignore, E., Gelderblom, H., Rhodes, E., Druin, A. Brownies or bags-of-stuff? domain expertise in cooperative inquiry with children. in 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ‘13). 2013. Association for Computing Machinery.
 Clegg, T., Bonsignore, E., Yip, J., Felderblom, H., Kuhn, A., Valenstein, T., Lewittes, B., Druin, A. Technology for promoting scientific practice and personal meaning in life-relevant learning. in 11th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ‘12). 2012. Association for Computing Machinery.
 Kang, S., Norooz, L., Oguamanam, V., Plane, A. C., Clegg, T. L., Froehlich, J. E. Live Physiological Sensing, Whole-Body Interaction, and Large-Screen Visualizations to Support Shared Inquiry Experiences. in The 15th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ‘16). 2016. Association for Computing Machinery.
 Hamidi, F., Moulton, A., Grimes, S., & Coy, A. . Using Retrospective Surveys to Assess the Impact of Participating in an Afterschool Maker Learning Program on Youth. in ASEE Virtual Annual Conference. 2020.
 Bell, P., Lewenstein, B., Shouse, A. W., & Feder, M., Assessments, in Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. 2009, National Research Council of the National Academies: Washington, D.C. p. 54-89.
 Schwartz, D.L., Bransford, J.D., and Sears, D. , Efficiency and innovation in transfer, in Transfer of learning from a modern multidisciplinary perspective J.P. Mestre, Editor. 2005, Information Age: Greenwich, CT.
 Allen, S., Looking for learning in visitor talk: A methodological exploration., in Learning conversations in museums K.C. G. Leinhardt, and K. Knutson Editor. 2002, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ. p. 259-303.
 Merriam, S. & Tisdell, E. (2015). Qualitative Research, Fourth Edition.