STEM-based Making for Youth, Families, and Communities

Sunday, August 15, 2021 to Wednesday, July 31, 2024
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Making and Tinkering Programs
Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Families | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Learning Researchers
Art, music, and theater | Engineering | General STEM | Technology
Access and Inclusion: 
University of North Carolina Greensboro

For many youth, gaining access to quality STEM (science, technology, engineering mathematics) experiences is a challenge. Inequity and underrepresentation of youth of color in STEM persist. The makerspace movement holds great promise in broadening participation in STEM among youth from underrepresented communities. Makerspaces are defined as collaborative workspaces inside a library, school, or other community location designed for creating, learning, exploring, and sharing with high- to low-tech tools. Despite the availability of making programs focused on STEM activities targeted towards youth of color, the field has few models for designing these programs in ways that build upon youths’ cultural assets and desires for making. Working collaboratively with youth, families, and maker educators in Lansing, Michigan, and Greensboro, North Carolina, this project aims to deepen the field’s understanding about the rich and deep ingenuity in STEM-based making that youth from underrepresented communities can engage. These insights will be leveraged towards advancing community-based maker programming across four community-based makerspaces. The project will also build capacity among STEM-oriented maker educators, researchers, and youth. This model is important because the voices and perspectives of families and communities have been largely absent from the formative knowledge and theory-building processes of the field of makerspace education.

This project will build new knowledge about how and why youth and families make at home, in communities, and in STEM-based maker programs. Collaborators for the project include the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and four STEM- and youth-oriented making spaces in Lansing, Michigan, and Greensboro, North Carolina. This project will take place in two phases, exploring two main research questions: 1) What are the learning results of making at home and in the community? And 2) How do youth organize community resources for sustained STEM making, and what facilitates or hinders such organization? Phase one investigates the community resources (people, tools, materials, knowledge, data, and spaces) youth leverage towards making and how they do so across time. The project will study how youth connect these resources to STEM-rich making and what youth and families learn in the process. In phase two, design-based research will be used to apply phase one insights to the design of community-based STEM-rich maker programs in four maker clubs in Michigan and North Carolina. This work will develop an understanding of youths’ family and community-based STEM-based making practices, including the community resources (people, tools, materials, knowledge, data, and spaces) that youth leverage.

This Research in Service to Practice project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to (a) advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; (b) provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; (c) advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and (d) engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

Funding Program: 
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Edna TanEdna TanPrincipal Investigator
Angela Calabrese BartonCo-Principal Investigator

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