Student Making kits and structured projects are designed to encourage Making as an activity but often have the effect of portraying Making as an abstract activity. These Making kits are challenging for students to understand how their acquired skills may be applied outside of the classroom and organizations. We argue that the abstract nature of these Making kits obscures students perception of how Making is relevant to their everyday experience and future pursuits. ITEST and AISL has a long-standing interest in enhancing Maker-based learning in both formal and informal environments. Together, they partnered together to support innovative models in Maker-based curriculum to support STEM learning and innovation. The product of ITEST and AISL’s collaboration was an Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) that tested the feasibility of coupling Maker concepts with real world concerns in manufacturing and production engineering in high school classrooms. Through this EAGER, we engaged in pilot research on our Making as Micro-Manufacture (M3) model, where individuals make things in the scales of tens to hundreds for real-life everyday use. We examined how M3 could be used as a framework for supporting STEM learning, identity, and self efficacy in high school students. In our application of M3, we combined Making, Engineering, and domain knowledge in elementary science as the foundation for a practice based learning career and technology education (CTE) course.
Students who participated in the CTE were assembled as part of an autonomous Making/Production team that worked under supervision by University researchers. For three years, University researchers conducted a daily teleconference supported class to teach basic Making and engineering skills. As a motivating scenario, students are tasked to make/produce materials for instructional hands-on activities for elementary school students in the same community. Year 1 of the project focused on familiarizing students with core Maker skills (basic soldering, wire connections, 3D printing) and production engineering concerns (bulk production, supply chains, and inventory management). Year 2 followed a similar procedure as year 1, differing where the students would engage in 6 week-long production schedules where they were expected to prototype, build, package, deliver, and deploy instructional science kits in a local elementary school classroom. Findings from Year 1 and 2 from our study saw increases in the students’ own self efficacy in Making and in engineering. Year 3 of the program investigated how experienced participants can support new participants orientation in M3. ‘Junior’ members, who are new to the class, are provided a survey of knowledge and skills necessary to engage in the M3 model. ‘Senior’ members, who’ve previously participated, acted as peer-mentors for ‘Juniors’. Findings from Year 3 saw an initial rise in ‘asked help’ and ‘intervened help’ instances during the earlier stages of the school year but later saw a decrease school year progressed as Junior students master M3 practices through guidance by Seniors. Our work, through this EAGER, demonstrates an approach to providing a situated and scalable curriculum that models practices in real world industries and those that are yet to come.
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