Cindy Atman's Research Group Archive

The following research group descriptions are archived because they are no longer offered, the faculty member is on sabbatical, or the group is taking a break. Please contact the faculty member or an advisor to learn more about these groups.

Material Inquiry and Resource Design for Informal Making in CoMotion MakerSpace

Autumn 2017


As design tools and rapid prototyping technology become more publicly available in informal setting like makerspaces, the availability of these tools (sewing machines, 3D printers, lasercutters, etc.) increases.  However, accessibility to these tools and the resources needed to use them does not necessarily follow. 


During the fall, this DRG will examine the resources (skills, materials, tools, knowledge, aspirations, processes, etc.) needed to support informal fabrications processes in the Co-Motion Makerspace through autoethnographic research (journaling) and material inquiry.   A subsequent winter DRG will use this knowledge uncovered to develop, prototype, and test means of supporting making in these spaces.

This research group will be led by PhD student Kathryn Shroyer, with guidance from Professor Cindy Atman.

Research Questions:

In the case of a small group of students working in the Co-Motion makerspace on quarter long sewing projects.

What resources are needed to carry out the projects? (materials, tools, knowledge, skills, aspirations, attitudes, space, processes, etc.
How does the space support/or not the acquisition of these resources?


Project (material inquiry): You will select a sewing project of their choosing and work on this project throughout the quarter using co-motion resources and whatever other resources needed. 

Journaling (data collection):  While carrying out this project you will document your process and the resources you discover that you need, want, and/or use.

Weekly Discussion: (Analysis) The research group will meet weekly to discuss our projects and analyze the data we are collecting through journaling,


1 weekly meeting (2hr) (Time TBD based on schedules)
4 hrs outside of meeting working on your project and collecting field notes

Spring 2017

Design Learning Pathways in Makerspaces

Led by PhD student Kathryn Shroyer


We have seen the recent emergence and growth of the “Maker Movement” and along with it the growth of “makerspaces”.  While there is no agreed upon definition of a makerspace, they are generally physical spaces that support communities of people who gather together to create, invent, and learn through the accessibility of tools and fabrication resources.  While many of these spaces did not begin with the explicit goal of "education", they have been imported into formal and informal educational institutions around the word (Universities, K-12 school, libraries, and museums) with the promise of expanding informal and hands-on learning experiences.  As a growing number of Universities are designing and implementing makerspaces on their campuses, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how these spaces support student learning, especially with regards to learning design and systems thinking.


This Directed Research Group will begin to look at student learning in makerspaces through participant observation in the Co-Motion makerspace, and other spaces on campus and in the community.  Students will work throughout the quarter to make observations, record field notes, open code, memo, and analyze insights.    We are looking for 4-6 upper level undergraduates or graduate students.  A small amount of reading will be assigned and discussed at the beginning of the quarter, but the bulk of this DRG will consist of weekly observation and analysis of field notes, and a weekly meeting to discuss and share insights.  Meeting time will be determined based on schedules.

This research group will be led by PhD student Kathryn Shroyer, with guidance from Professor Cindy Atman.

Credits: 2 credits


1 weekly meeting (2hr) (Time TBD based on schedules)
4 hrs outside of meeting conducting observations and field notes


Looking for upper level undergraduates or grad students interested in learning participant observation techniques and/or interested in informal learning in fabrication spaces.


“Chance Favors the Prepared Mind”: Mapping Future Discovery to Current Learning
Winter 2017

“Chance favors the prepared mind”
- Louis Pasteur, 1854

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
- Chuck Close, 2003

Louis Pasteur famously said, “chance favors the prepared mind.”  This is interpreted to mean that discoveries happen when your brain is able to recognize when an observed circumstance does not conform to learned expectations.  Artist Chuck Close, is saying that creating anything, first and foremost, requires being present. 

In this Directed Research Group students will conduct a set of exercises to…

  1. examine their goals for the future
  2. choose an area that they would like to enable a “future surprise” or “discovery”
  3. and develop a plan to help them be ready to make that discovery
  4. develop skills used in qualitative research such as the ability to deal with ambiguity, uncertainty and situations where constraints are unknown.

Specifically, students will

  • think about what they want to be prepared to do in the future
  • identify a set of 6 or 7 concepts or areas, that they think will enable a future discovery
  • develop a “bookshelf” representation of those concepts (using “My Ideal Bookshelf” as a model
  • develop a learning plan to acquire this knowledge
  • create a “memory aid” that will be useful to both learn the concepts, and remember them into the future.

Activities during the quarter will be informed by research on learning, reflection, and appreciation for the adaptive capacity each of us needs as we navigate through the events that will unfold in our lives. 

Throughout the quarter students will discuss their individual responses to each activity and also discuss how each activity contributes to their learning.   

Logistics: This is a 2-credit research group offered to undergraduate HCDE students. Enrollment is limited, so please send me an email ( as soon as possible with a few sentences saying why you are interested in this group and how many quarters you have been in the HCDE program.


David Farkas and Cindy Atman
Teaching and Learning Engineering Design Reading Seminar
This reading seminar-style research group will focus on research relevant to engineering education, with a focus on design. Examples of topics related to teaching and learning engineering design include the following:
  • undergraduate conceptions of design
  • expertise in design
  • representations of design process
  • approaches to teaching and assessing design
  • consideration of problem context during design
  • sustainability and design
  • theoretical frameworks for engineering education research
The primary activity will be reading conference/journal papers and book excerpts, with the possible addition of viewing online talks. Additional activities may include analysis of qualitative and quantitative data and field-testing educational assessments. For an example reading, see this paper:
C. J. Atman et al. (2007). Engineering Design Processes: A Comparison of Students and Expert Practitioners. Journal of Engineering Education, 96(4).
Anticipated weekly workload is 2 hours of reading and 1 hour of in-seminar discussion.
Dr. Cindy Atman will be on leave in 2012 autumn. This research group will resume in 2013 winter. Students who have enrolled in prior quarters are welcome to re-enroll.

Designing Your Personal Design Process 
There are many ways to represent design processes (for example, see Dubberly's How do you design?) In this research group we will interact with multiple representations of the design process, and students will develop a representation of their own personal design process.
Main Activities: Students in this group will 1) research and report on prescriptive models of design processes, 2) interact with empirically based representations of design processes, 3) complete a design task, 4) develop their own design process representation, 5) respond to tasks designed to elicit understanding of design context, and 6) reflect on various lenses that can affect design processes (e.g., interdisciplinary perspectives).
What you will get out of this activity: Students who participate in this research group can expect to develop a representation of their own design process. This will be based on the activities described above, the opportunity to reflect on how these activities can be integrated into a personal vision of design, and interactions with peers in the research group. This kind of perspective can be useful while navigating both college and professional experiences. Students will also be co-authors on a technical report that will include copies of pieces of your work through the quarter.
Logistics: This is a 2 credit research group offered to undergraduate and graduate students. Enrollment is limited, so please send an email to Julie Provenson ( as soon as possible with a few sentences saying why you are interested in this group. We will find a time that works for those interested in joining this group. Please state in your email if there are preferred days and times that work for you.