Cal State LA is ranked number one in the U.S. for the upward mobility of its graduates, according to The Equality of Opportunity Project. The College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology (ECST) plays a significant role in this achievement by providing a transformative educational experience for its 3,200 diverse and mostly underrepresented students, of which 63% identify as Hispanic and 73% identify as low income, first-generation college students. ECST is committed to using experiential learning to build upon the existing knowledge, skills, and attitudes essential for our students to be competitive in the workforce. With funding from the W. M. Keck Foundation, the Innovation and Design Center (IDC) is developing and fostering a learning community centered on designing and making, where both instruction and research projects occur.
The IDC will provide a place for students to collaboratively participate in project-based learning with the goal of increasing STEM identity through design-based principles, strengthening interest, self-efficacy, persistence, and achievement.
We have developed the ECST Makerspace to provide this project-based learning in addition to a student user program which encompasses a rigorous safety training program, a student shop steward training program, and a user login system. The Makerspace has ideation space (moveable tables and chairs, conference rooms, white boards), prototyping equipment (3D printers, laser cutters, and metal forming equipment), hand tools, woodworking equipment, and metal working equipment (machine shop equipment including welding and water jet facilities). The IDC provides training on use of the equipment and just-in-time workshops on the design process, using computer-aided drafting software, advanced manufacturing techniques, microcontroller programming, and any topics requested by users. The IDC also provides a space and resources for club meetings and competition team projects, students performing faculty-led research, and collaboration with industry through ECST capstone senior design projects.
A number of courses have been developed or improved to incorporate usage of the IDC for project-based learning. Courses using the space include ENGR 1500: Introduction to Engineering and Technology, TECH 1600: Introduction to Metal Working, ME 2030: Introduction to Mechanical Design, ME 4971/4972: Capstone Senior Design, and Dr. Wilson is incorporating EDEL 4170, Curriculum and Instruction of Elementary and Middle School Mathematics into the IDC to instruct pre-service teachers on the pedagogical and instructional benefits of design thinking to help strengthen K-8 students from underrepresented populations which can encourage STEM participation.
The project team is also performing regular assessment, evaluation, and peer-reviewed research to inform others on integrating project-based learning into their curriculum. Results of IDC are being being used to inform faculty pedagogy and training in relation to experiential learning across the university.