“Making” as a Pathway to Engineering November 2013
The “Maker Movement” brings together engineers, hobbyists,
artists, and tinkerers to design, build, and repurpose materials
that are “playful, creative, yet also technically sophisticated
and ambitious,” according to Assistant Professor Lee Martin.
This kind of “tinkering” or making, especially among young
people, can lead to careers in engineering. Unfortunately,
according to Martin, playful, creative and ambitious
project-based learning is often missing in K-12 settings, leaving
many youth with no pathway to this critical field of study.
With a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, Martin
aims to provide a better understanding of how making fosters
students’ abilities to learn when facing novel engineering and
design problems and how making may transform students’ sense of
themselves and their future plans in the field of engineering.
“Making is a potentially powerful learning activity, and has the
potential to engage more youth, particularly more diverse youth,
in pathways to engineering and design,” said Martin, who has
studied youth engagement in a maker community outside of a formal
school setting. “But bringing it into a school setting could lead
to only a superficial approach—for example, having students use
The prestigious $430,000 CAREER grant, which will fund Martin’s
research over five years to compare making in formal and
out-of-school settings, provides a mobile maker studio (akin to a
bookmobile) to expand access to making for traditionally
underrepresented and under-served students, and will develop
tools and curriculum to guide students’ engagement in engineering
and design practices and habits of mind.