Reflecting on a Month of Making: EiTM Lab’s Symposium Highlights and Takeaways

In February 2024, the EiTM Lab participated in various maker symposiums focused on equitable making and maker literacies. Dr. Melo joined these events virtually, while Graduate Research Assistants Luxin (Grace) Zhang and Rachel Rodney physically attended workshops in the Bay Area, California, and Arlington, Texas, respectively. Below, you can find the key insights gained from these events.

CRAFT Network for Researchers and Makers 

From February 9th to February 12th, Grace attended the 2024 CRAFT Network Meeting: Cultivating Reciprocal Partnerships with Communities, Researchers, and Makers Educators at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco, California. 


Exhibit in Childrens Museum

Photo of Children’s Creativity Museum


Grace presented various EiTM Lab publications to a group of scholars and practitioners specializing in equity and interdisciplinary approaches in STEM education. These publications included the original virtual Makerspace, its redesigned version, and signage from the redesigned Makerspace. During the presentation, she discussed the connection between physical spaces, learning, and the sense of belonging. Grace affirmed what the research data revealed: the Virtual Makerspace can be a valuable tool for educators and researchers aiming to create community-centered learning experiences, drawing on direct feedback from users.

During the group discussion, Grace raised important questions regarding the systematic impact of research, emphasizing the importance of effective dissemination and communication for sustained research influence, particularly after funding ends.

At the CRAFT Network conference and during the tour of the Children’s Creativity Museum, the EiTM Lab showcased the significant cultural and creative contributions of local communities. They shared valuable resources with their partners and linked their work to the broader maker community outside their state, specifically highlighting Bay Area makerspaces and practices. This was aimed at laying the groundwork for future research-practice partnerships.


People sitting around tables at conference

Photo from CRAFT Meeting


Maker Immersion for Makerspace Organizers

Furthermore, EiTM participated in the Maker Literacies Mini Immersion event on February 23rd, 2024, at the University of Texas Arlington (UTA) Library. The goal of this event was to engage with Maker Literacy standards that their Fablab developed through research studies conducted with UTA students. Some standards they established included students’ abilities to ideate and prototype, be safe in a makerspace environment, and collaborate in teams when making. To see more details about Maker Competencies, please refer to this resource

As part of the Mini Immersion, EiTM evaluated how the literacy standards might be applied to INLS 690: Information Professionals in the Makerspace, which is a recurring course where information science students learn how to express data through making.


Examples of making

Glasswork and Digital Presentation Area in UTA Library Fablab


In addition to the workshop regarding maker literacy standards, we toured UTA Library’s Fablab and networked with other makerspace professionals who attended the event. 

For participating in this event EiTM was granted $2,000 to purchase additional materials for our lab to contribute to students’ learning outcomes. In the past, students in our department have been very interested in making with textile materials such as quilting and crocheting. To expand on the textile making capacities of our lab, we added tufting tools and materials. Initial impressions students had of the addition were excitement and curiosity. We are looking forward to seeing what they create with these new tools! 


Yarn on pegboard

Creating a yarn wall for students to use in tufting


Summer Spotlight: EITM Lab Shares VR Research Findings at Two Makerspace Conferences

Summer at the EiTM Lab has been nothing short of thrilling as Dr. Maggie Melo and research assistant Rachel Rodney shared their research findings at two prominent conferences. Their presentations delved into the intriguing world of makerspaces, focusing not only on how students respond to a conventional makerspace but also on a redesigned makerspace, meticulously crafted with student feedback in mind. Based on this research, they created Open Educational Resources to support others who may want to further explore the makerspace experience using VR. 

“Conventional” on Left, “Redesigned” on Right


During the conferences, they shed light on the spatial impact of makerspaces and how they communicate a sense of belonging (or not). The “Conventional” VR makerspace, which offers an immersive experience, was analyzed to understand its impact on student engagement and creativity. On the other hand, the spotlight was firmly on the “Redesigned” VR makerspace, carefully designed to reflect students’ feedback.

Information on each of the conferences and the presentations are outlined below.


MIRA (Makerspaces for Innovation and Research in Academics) – July 11, 2023

From the Margins to the Center: What Underrepresented Communities Notice and Feel in (VR) Makerspaces


In early July, they presented the findings from the Redesigned makerspace at MIRA. It was an incredible opportunity to share their work with a diverse audience of researchers, makers, and advocates, all invested in equity and inclusion for makerspaces. Not only were they able to shed light on the barriers historically marginalized students face when engaging with makerspaces but also had the chance to learn about other researchers’ and makers’ efforts to foster inclusivity.


PML (Play Make Learn Conference) – July 20-21, 2023

Virtual Reality for Real Inclusion: Designing Makerspaces with Inclusivity in Mind


Later in July, the EITM team had the privilege of participating in PML, where they delved into the details of our study. During this event, we were able to present a comprehensive view of our research, providing valuable insights into evaluating inclusive design elements to add to makerspaces. Additionally, they had the opportunity to attend diverse workshops, ranging from flower dyeing and STEM education to embracing the creation of intentionally “bad” and “ugly” art. 

EiTM’s ‘Bad Art’ Submission – “The Cork Legged Strawberry Axolotl”

Next Stop: ISAM (International Symposium of Academic Makerspaces ) – October 18-20, 2023

With the success of our presentations at MIRA and PML, we are gearing up for ISAM in October. At this event, we aim to present further findings from our research, building on the knowledge we’ve gained thus far. 

Dr. Melo’s Keynote Talk at University of British Columbia

Dr. Melo delivered a keynote at the University of British Columbia’s Inclusive Makerspace Conference on May 25, 2023. The keynote presentation explored the reasons behind students’ hesitations at the makerspace threshold, highlighting the need for inclusive makerspace design, addressing feelings of alienation, and offering practical strategies to create a welcoming environment. The Virtual Makerspace resource was also introduced during the talk, “The Virtual Makerspace is a generative tool to gain user reactions and feedback on a makerspace. We invite you to use it for learning, research, and community building purposes, for example. Here are five methods practitioners and researchers can implement using the Virtual Makerspace.


For more information, please see the keynote description below and the presentation slidedeck.


Dr. Melo standing at podium

Keynote description:

Why do students turn away at the threshold of a makerspace? The makerspace threshold, where students must decide whether to enter or turn away, is a critical area for educators to investigate. This is because it offers valuable insights into students’ gut reactions when making the decision to enter the makerspace. By examining this threshold, educators can better understand why underrepresented communities are hesitant to participate in makerspaces and identify the discrepancies between the Maker Movement’s inclusive goals and the actual demographics they attract.


In this keynote, Melo outlines an approach to capture and analyze previously uncollected data on students’ real-time thoughts and feelings within a makerspace. By using virtual reality to record students’ first impressions and emotions, her research offers a unique perspective on the barriers that prevent diverse user communities from feeling welcome and included. The findings emphasize the significance of permission and purpose for underrepresented students to engage with the makerspace and the importance of addressing the feelings of alienation and exclusion experienced by students. The keynote presentation will not only present the findings on inclusive makerspace design, but it will also offer practical strategies and applications for attendees to use into their own makerspace. Attendees can expect to gain valuable insights and strategies for creating more inclusive makerspace designs that foster a diverse and enriching environment for all.

EiTM Lab in Action at the Durham County Public Library

As a part of our community outreach for the NSF Equity in the Making grant , the EiTM Lab hosted face-to-face keepsake box-making workshops in the Innovation Lab at Durham County Public Library. The two hands-on workshops were an excellent opportunity to connect with community members and share our passion for seeking equity through critical making.

We went to the Durham County Main Library (DCPL) with box-making kits (cut using our laser-cutter), portable makerspace equipment (Cricut Machine, wood burning kits, 3Doodlers), and assorted handicraft and art tools. The Innovation Lab at DCPL was already equipped with 3D printers, laser cutting machines, poster printers, and sewing machines – it was a perfect place for the workshop.

Attendees working on their keepsake boxes

After a short presentation, the participants set out to construct and decorate their wooden keepsake boxes. Participants got to observe and try out the Cricut machine, which was in high-demand. Participants were busy cutting on-demand designs like bull silhouettes (after all, Durham Bulls)s and North Carolina stickers for decorating personalized boxes.

Most workshop participants were 50 years old or better. We also welcomed an 8-year grandchild. Despite some frustration and complications with hot glue guns, by the end of the workshop, every participant went home with a  personalized wooden box with a hinged lid, an experience with making with technology, and an afternoon to remember. One participant left with an additional kit “to teach her husband” at home.

Boxes decorated by participants

Examples of decorated boxes

A thank you email from the Durham Parks & Recreation (DPR) Mature Adult Group Leader said,

“Our Mature Adult participants were so taken with all the tools and ideas they got to try out and be creative with. They are still talking about how much fun they had making their keepsake boxes.”

The truth is that we (the EiTM team) had just as much fun and rewarding experience as the participants did.

Group picture of EiTM and DCPL members


EiTM at Durham County Library

EiTM at MIRA 2022

On July 13th, Dr. Maggie Melo and Rachel Rodney presented “Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud: EDI Considerations in a VR Makerspace,” at the MIRA (Makerspaces for Innovation and Research in Academics) Conference. This presentation showcased preliminary findings based on Dr. Melo’s recent study “Equity in the Making: Investigating Spatial Arrangements of Makerspaces and Their Impact on Diverse User Populations” investigating how students from underrepresented communities felt about a traditional makerspace through participatory action research hosted in a VR environment. 

Presentation Abstract

The Equity in the Making Lab designed a virtual reality (VR) makerspace to investigate how the arrangement of a makerspace communicates ideas around the environment’s purpose, values, and audience. Specifically, the Lab conducted a participatory action research (PAR) program using think-aloud reporting to identify how students from historically marginalized communities experience a makerspace for the first time. This session will provide an overview of research findings that detail the first impressions and gut reactions from participants. 

In our research, participants had the opportunity to explore a traditional makerspace in VR, providing us a prime opportunity to interact and gain insight from participants. Using the VR headset’s gaze tracking technology, we were able to identify what participants looked at, how long, and how frequent. This is useful in understanding what stood out to participants on different levels, such as what they noticed first, and what aspects of the space they showed more interest in. 

View this presentation recording here.

EiTM at ALISE 2021

On September 22, Dr. Maggie Melo, Laura March, and Dr. Kimberly Hirsh will present “Examining the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Library Makerspaces and LIS Makerspace Curricula” at the 2021 Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) virtual conference.

Paper/Session Description

This paper outlines two synergistic analyses that engage with the themes of resilient futures and education related to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, we describe the results of a research study on how makerspace information professionals in higher education adapted their services in response to additional safety protocols and needs of their user communities. Second, we illustrate how preliminary findings from this research were incorporated into a case study on transitioning LIS makerspace course curricula from face-to-face to remote learning.

By presenting both analyses together, this work contributes to conversations surrounding LIS curricula as it pertains to teaching and training information professionals for careers in makerspaces, while also contextualizing these adaptations within the larger changes implemented by academic library makerspaces in North Carolina.

This project was made possible in part by the National Science Foundation Award # 1942930.

EiTM at MIRA 2021

On July 15, Dr. Maggie Melo, Laura March, and Dr. Kimberly Hirsh presented “A Hidden Link to Foster Equity and Inclusion? A Study on the Defining Features of Academic Makerspaces” at the 2021 Makerspaces for Innovation and Research in Academics (MIRA) virtual conference.

Session Description

“Does a makerspace spatially communicate who belongs in the space?” is a question that the presenters, researchers from the Equity in the Making Lab, are investigating. What sights, sounds, and scents are attributed to makerspaces and why? This presentation unpacks the findings from year one of a five-year research program that explores makerspaces within an equity and inclusion framework. This presentation will outline two key findings:

  • Why it’s difficult to isolate the defining features of a makerspace
  • The role of affect, emotion, and the “intangible” features of a makerspace

These findings add insight regarding the persistent challenge of the underrepresentation of marginalized communities in makerspaces. Moreover, these findings are foundational for the next part of the research program: the development of a virtual makerspace that investigates the initial reactions and thoughts of students from marginalized communities.

This project was made possible in part by the National Science Foundation Award # 1942930.

Re-making the Library Makerspace Book Launch

Jan 29, 2021

10am PST/1pm EST

You’re invited to the (virtual) book launch of Re-making the Library Makerspace: Critical Theories, Reflections, and Practices, from Library Juice Press, edited by Jennifer T. Nichols and Maggie Melo. The volume offers chapters that acknowledge power and structural inequity, reflect on moving forward toward social justice, and celebrate successes and progress.

Read more about the event, Virtual book launch of Re-making the Library Makerspace, or register for the webinar directly via LibraryJuice.

Book Launch Poster featuring the book cover of Remaking the Librarian Makerspace

CNI Session

CNI Fall Webinar Header

Investigating the Spatial Arrangements of Makerspaces and its Impact on Diverse Student Populations

Tuesday, December 1, 2020: 2:00pm – 2:30pm

Learn more and sign up through CNI Fall 2020 Virtual Membership Meeting Website

The preliminary findings for the first phase of the research program, “Equity in the Making: Investigating Spatial Arrangements of Makerspaces and Their Impact on Diverse User Populations” will be explored in this project briefing. Librarians and information professionals continue to navigate a persistent challenge in their makerspaces: an underrepresentation of undergraduates from marginalized communities. The aim of this 5-year research program is to examine the relationship between the spatial arrangement of academic makerspaces and the diverse user communities it seeks to attract. The scope of this briefing focuses on the initial findings from a set of interviews that asked participants to describe the defining features (sight, sound, and scent) of a conventional academic makerspace. This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER program.

Webinar: Makers Gonna Make

Makers Gonna Make: Maker Ed in Remote/Hybrid Learning Environments

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 – 12pm ET/ 9am PT

Webinar Signup

Many libraries use makerspaces to teach and engage, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, buildings have been closed and people have been distanced. So libraries are doing what they always do: innovate. From student-led remote projects to take-home kits to lists of resources that can be found around the house (sticky rice adhesive!), makerspaces have gone virtual.

Please join Leslie Preddy, Stacy Brown, and Maggie Melo as they discuss big-picture questions about how makerspaces can work at a distance. Moderated by Heather Moorefield-Lang, it’s sure to be a lively and informative conversation, and there will be plenty of time for comments and questions. Bring a friend!

  • Of interest to school librarians, library students, and other librarians working with makerspaces
  • Discuss how makerspaces can work well virtually
  • Get and share ideas for innovative maker programs

To get the ideas flowing, check out these short video lessons made by our webinar presenters on creative ways to conduct maker activities with your students—even from a distance!

Sponsored by ABC-CLIO

Can’t make it on October 28? Register to be updated when the recording is available for viewing!


  • Stacy Brown is the 21st-century learning coordinator at The Davis Academy in Atlanta, GA. Brown is a national presenter and contributor to professional books and journals on topics relating to libraries, technology, innovation, and education. She is the author of The School Librarian’s Technology Playbook: Innovative Strategies to Inspire Teachers and Learners. She is a regional director of the Georgia Technology Competition and a board member of Savvy Cyber Kids, Inc. and Atlanta Area Technology Educators. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @21stStacy.
  • Maggie Melo is an assistant professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She co-founded the University of Arizona’s first makerspace, the iSpace, in the university’s Science-Engineering Library. Her research resides at the intersection of innovation, critical maker culture, and the development of equitable and inclusive learning spaces (e.g. makerspaces) in academic libraries.
  • Leslie Preddy is the school librarian at Perry Meridian Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and instructional leadership editor for School Library Connection magazine. Her book SSR with Intervention: A School Library Action Research Project was named one of the best professional books of 2007 by Teacher Librarian and her book Social Readers: Promoting Reading in the 21st Century, was highly recommended by Library Media Connection. Her latest book is School Library Makerspaces.


  • Heather Moorefield-Lang serves as associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the department of library and information science. Her research is focused on emerging technologies and their use in education and libraries. She has had the honor of being nominated for the White House Champion of Change for Making in 2016. Heather is also the editor of School Library Makerspaces in Action. To learn more visit her YouTube channel “Tech 15” or follow her on Twitter @actinginthelib.

Webinar graphic with headshots of speakers and covers of books that will be door prizes