The Connected Spaces (C/S) project is 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.
The project is designed to connect prospective and geographically distributed middle and high school makers who are underrepresented in STEM with peers, mentors, and technical assistance. C/S includes two primary technological components: a digital dashboard for providing connection and knowledge awareness, and the REACH Projector for supporting collaboration and debugging. Youth and undergraduate mentors will be recruited through university and community organization partners. The project will research whether, as a result of these connections, participating learners will improve their sense of belonging and identity as makers and develop increased interest in pursuing STEM career pathways. Connected Spaces is a partnership with Nathan Holbert at Teachers College, Columbia University.