Many assert the potential for makerspaces to provide competency in design and promote learning, similar to the on-the-job learning that occurs in industry, yet evidence remains anecdotal. This research investigates how academic makerspaces support design competencies and learning outcomes, particularly for women students. This is addressed through the following research questions: 1) what are the different types of design competencies and learning types that are reported in an academic makerspace, 2) how are design and learning pathways developing, and 3) what are the implications for engineering design.
To answer the research questions, a multi-study research design is proposed. First, in Study One, woman makers participate in a three-part in-depth phenomenologically based interview series. The interviews are analyzed through a rigorous, iterative data analysis process that utilizes open and axial coding methods to establish the design competencies, the learning types, and the design and learning pathways. For Study Two, a targeted interview protocol on design learning is developed, executed with different women students, and analyzed in order to clarify and confirm the findings of Study One. Finally, higher education institutions are making large investments to install academic makerspaces. Therefore, in order to explicate implications for engineering design, Study Three employs an ancillary semi-structured qualitative interview protocol that is conducted with nine leaders of various nationwide makerspaces, analyzed, and juxtaposed with the findings of Study One and Study Two. In turn, through implementing a multi-study research design, I define types of design competencies and learning types, model design and learning pathways, and articulate the significance for makerspaces in engineering design; thereby, I discover that there are critical factors influencing a woman studentâ€™s involvement in the makerspace and that through the makerspace, women students have a notable expansion in the design competencies in their â€śtoolbox of design.â€ť By exclusively examining the woman making experience, I expose the value of academic makerspaces for developing oneâ€™s â€śtoolbox of design.â€ť