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Pepperdine Receives Large Award from National Science Foundation to Establish International Network of Makerspace Clubs

American Makerspace Teams Will Partner with Fellow Student Makers in Namibia, Finland and Kenya as Part of Informal Learning Project

Funding a network of student makerspace groups and concurrently a large educational research project, interim Associate Dean of Education and Pepperdine professor Dr. Eric Hamilton has secured a prestigious 1.72-million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Pepperdine University. Awarded by the NSF’s highly competitive Advanced Informal Science Learning (AISL) program, the grant will drive a four-year effort to establish a network of 12 makerspace clubs in the United States, Europe and Africa. In addition to developing the clubs, Dr. Hamilton’s team will also complete several research projects that will test a novel data analysis methodology and create an age-appropriate inventory for intercultural competence.

The ambitious plan has already received accolades from grant reviewers for the Foundation and its AISL program, who typically select only 9% of grant applicants for an award, let alone one of this size. “The project brings together several different threads into a tantalizing process,” said one reviewer. Another wrote: “Grounded in a philosophy of engaging students as help-givers, teachers, and story makers, the bring a celebratory, open-ended style to STEM communication that also is bounded by clear research goals…this is an intriguing and welcome combination.” 

The American maker teams will be based at project sites in California, Nevada, Colorado and New York. These students will be connected with international counterparts within other makerspace groups. For example, a student at the Las Vegas site may be expected to produce a project with a peer in the Lapland, Nairobi, or Long Beach, California group.

All makerspace clubs will be tasked collaboratively with creating digital assets—videos, games, short subject films, and computer programs—designed to help their peers learn science and mathematics.

The distinguished New York Hall of Science, one of the nation’s leading science museums and home to the largest Maker Faire in the country, has been named as a formal collaborative partner in working with the groups to suggest and organize different science and mathematics activities. With the makerspace clubs and concurrent educational research, students will have the opportunity for creating activities relevant to their interests and identities, while engaging in meaningful creative play and experimentation cross-culturally.

The “maker movement” is one of the fastest growing trends in both formal and informal education, with schools and universities worldwide building “makerspace labs” for their students. Pepperdine’s Dr. Hamilton is known by leading education, mathematics and science professors as a champion of these innovative, transformative forms of learning and for his significant educational research on the subject. “I think combining technology with an astute understanding of how people learn can lead to a new golden age of education,” he says. Clearly, with this new extensive and fully international collaboration, Dr. Hamilton will have an opportunity to implement his significant research findings on a new and global level.