SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Megan Tomko
TIME: Friday, March 29, 2019, 11:00 a.m.
PLACE: IBB Building, 1128
TITLE: Developing Ones Toolbox of Designť Through the Lived Experiences of Women Students: Academic Makerspaces as Sites for Learning
COMMITTEE: Dr. Julie Linsey, Co-Chair (ME)
Dr. Wendy Newstetter, Co-Chair (BME)
Dr. Bert Bras (ME)
Dr. Kate Fu (ME)
Dr. Robert Nagel (ME)
Dr. Melissa Alemán (COMM)


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 by women in an academic makerspace, 2) how are women students’ design and learning competencies interacting and developing, and 3) what are the implications for engineering design. To answer the research questions, a multi-study research design was implemented. First, in Study One, woman makers participated in a three-part in-depth phenomenologically based interview series. The interviews were analyzed through a rigorous, iterative data analysis process that utilized open and axial coding methods to establish a typology of learning, a learning model, and the design and learning pathways. For Study Two, a targeted interview protocol on design learning was developed, executed with fifteen different women students, and analyzed in order to clarify, confirm, and expound upon 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 was conducted with nine leaders of various nationwide makerspaces; the interviews were analyzed and juxtaposed with the findings of Study One and Study Two. In turn, through implementing a multi-study research design, we defined types of design competencies and learning types, modeled design and learning pathways, and articulated the significance for makerspaces in engineering design; thereby, we discover that there are critical factors influencing a woman student’s involvement in the makerspace and that through the makerspace, women students have a notable expansion in the design competencies in their “toolbox of design.” By exclusively examining the woman making experience, we expose the value of academic makerspaces for developing one’s “toolbox of design.”