Associate Professor Jill Castek is the principal investigator on a new project supported by the National Science Foundation on how best to develop inclusive studio-based learning environments. Castek and Assistant Professor Blaine Smith will be collaborating across campus with Kevin Bonine, Jennifer Nichols, and Leslie Sult from UA Biosphere 2, and the UA Libraries, respectively. The University of Arizona team that also includes the STEM Learning Center, and the Office of Digital Learning, will be leading the way in the national conversation on designing innovation hubs for equity and inclusivity.
Have you been in a makerspace or an innovation hub? They are popping up in libraries, schools, and community spaces as places where you might experience 3D printers, coding tutorials, and even use older technology like sewing machines. More importantly, you will find people. People to teach you, learn from you, solve problems with you, and share each other's inspiration. You will likely find a community with common interests - a community that has the potential to cross income- and expertise-levels, age, race, and gender. We know that learning in these creative spaces and the digital environments they plug into can positively affect a person's relationship with skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But, do we all feel invited to these spaces? Do all we thrive there? Can intentional design draw in the demographics that data show are systematically diverted from STEM career paths?
From February 25-28, 2019, Biosphere 2 will host a workshop for experts from academia, libraries, museums, and the like to gather, share, and discuss ideas. The broad national group will work through what type of learning takes place in these innovation spaces and identify barriers to access. The workshop outcomes will prescribe the pace and direction of how innovation spaces are designed. Importantly, the UA team will provide the National Science Foundation a summarized list of principles and assessments to anchor the future of digital learning in studio-based environments like makerspaces and suggest ways to facilitate community building specific to online learning.
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