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Connected Spaces (C/S) is an NSF funded project researching and developing a technological toolkit and design framework to connect youth makers with peers, mentors, and technical assistance. Makers tinker, design, create, and invent, often working with peers in makerspaces equipped with traditional materials and tools as well as with 3-D printers, electronics, computer design and other technologies. However, this can often happen in physically distributed spaces making it hard for students to connect with a broader community of like-minded enthusiasts. This connection is critical in developing a sense of identity and belongingness, particularly for those traditionally underrepresented in maker education.

In response, C/S builds upon our theory of Computational Action which focuses on three key factors: (a) computational identity, which is a person's recognition of themselves as capable of identifying and creatively implementing computational solutions to issues in their lives, schools and communities; (b) digital empowerment, which focuses on people's ability to put their computational identity into action in authentic and personally meaningful ways; and (c) computational design thinking, in which learners' can successfully articulate the processes by which they will design and develop their solutions.


In partnership with the Snow day Learning Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University and working with youth and undergraduate mentors through university and community organization partners, C/S investigates how supporting these cross-site connections, participants grow their sense of identity and empowerment as makers and develop increased interest in pursuing STEM career pathways.

To achieve this, C/S aims to connect geographically distributed middle and high school makers with peers, mentors, and technical assistance. C/S includes several primary technological components:

1) A digital dashboard that can provide connection between peers, reflect their identity as makers, a provide cross-site knowledge awareness.

Connected Spaces Dashboard
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The digital dashboard allows students to create their own profile that is displayed along with all of their peers on a large format display in each location. Students can choose their affinities - a range of computing, engineering, and personal/SES skills - and there are no prerequisites or conditions for students to choose affinities (unlike badge systems), only that the student identifies it as something they are interested in and would be open to talk with others about. Whenever a student requires help, or wants to talk over an idea, they are encouraged to find a peer who has that affinity displayed on their profile.

2) The REACH Projector for supporting remote collaboration and debugging.

The REACH projector system relies on a projector and camera positioned above a work surface to project and capture a small work area. A user places an artifact under the projector and the artifact is projected onto the second user’s work area. The second user can then remotely "interact" with the projected surface by pointing, gesturing, or superimposing physical objects in their space, which is then captured and projected in real-time back on the object in the original space. The 1:1 mapping of the projected workspace with the physical environment takes advantage of natural user interactions as if the remote users were sitting next to one another.

Relevant Papers

Bawankule, A., Hopping, D., & Tissenbaum. (2023). Fostering Maker Identity and Collaboration: Affordances of the Connected Spaces Dashboard in Two Afterschool Makerspaces. To appear in proceedings of the Constructionism / FabLearn 2023 Conference. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Smith, C., & Tissenbaum. (2023). The REACH System: Boundary Spanning’s Support of Distributed Collaborative Making. To appear in proceedings of the Constructionism / FabLearn 2023 Conference. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Bawankule, A., Tissenbaum, M. (2023). Maker identity development: What and how? In Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences - ICLS 2023. Montreal, Canada: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

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