This exploratory study seeks to investigate the type of learning that occurs at community labs and whether these spaces provide different types of STEM learning compared to the informal education that occurs at traditional makerspaces. A community lab is an informal education space where participants are engaged in some form of "making" using biological materials, for example creating new biological devices by recombining DNA sequences. While there has been significant work on informal education at makerspaces, much less has been conducted on community labs. The role of these spaces in encouraging and developing STEM skills and career interest in students is unknown. Because community labs have been developed in most major US cities, this lack of understanding leaves a potential important resource for STEM education potentially underused, underappreciated, and separated from the educational establishment and resources.
Lisa Scheifele is trained as a molecular biologist and geneticist. She completed her PhD at Penn State and her postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where she was began working in the field of synthetic biology. She joined the faculty of Loyola University Maryland in 2009 where she engages in both teaching and research. Since 2018, she has been the principal investigator of the Build-a-Genome Network, whose goal is to introduce synthetic biology research and education at more undergraduate institutions. She is also actively engaged in public outreach as the Executive Director of the Baltimore Underground Science Space community lab.
Lisa Scheifele, PhD
Foad Hamidi is an Assistant Professor in Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He is the director of the Designing pARticipatory futurEs (DARE) Lab. His research is in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) with a focus on the participatory design and evaluation of emerging interactive systems, including living media interfaces and adaptive systems. He also pursues research in using DIY and maker approaches to facilitate creativity, learning, and empowerment for children and youth with and without disabilities. He has a PhD in Computer Science from the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University in Toronto, Canada.