Reimagining Systems for Learning Hands-on Creative and Maker Skills

In the last decade, HCI researchers have designed and engineered several systems to lower the entry barrier for beginners and support novices in learning hands-on creative maker skills. These skills range from building electronics to fabricating physical artifacts.

While much of the design and engineering of current learning systems is driven by the advances in technology, we can reimagine these systems by reorienting the design goals around constructivist and sociocultural theories of learning to support learning progression, engagement across artistic disciplines, and designing for inclusivity and accessibility.

We are excited to announce the one-day workshop that aims to bring together the HCI researchers in systems engineering and learning sciences, challenge them to reimagine the future design of systems of learning creative maker skills. This workshop will provide a platform to exchange interdisciplinary ideas, promote collaborative research, and generate source material for future research work.

Our workshop proposal can be downloaded here:


Dishita Turakhia (Ph.D Candidate, MIT CSAIL) [lead organizer]

Dishita Turakhia is a Ph.D. candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the EECS dept. Her work in the HCIE group at MIT CSAIL focuses on designing systems for learning of hands-on skills such as motor skills, fabrication skills, and maker skills. She builds these learning systems using different frameworks from the learning sciences, such as adaptive learning, game-based learning, and reflective learning.

Prof. Paulo Blikstein (Associate Professor, Columbia University)

Paulo Blikstein is an Associate Professor of Education and an Affiliate Associate Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. A former student of Madalena Freire’s lab school in São Paulo, Paulo has been deeply influenced by Paulo Freire’s work. His current research focuses on how new technologies can transform the learning of science, engineering, and computation and how new machine learning-inspired methods can be applied in educational research. He created the FabLearn program, the first academic initiative to bring maker education to schools, and designed several platforms for creative making, such as Google Bloks and the GoGo Board. More recently, Paulo has been exploring the idea of Cultural Making, conducting research on how different learning communities--such as Samba Schools in Brazil and Thai rural villages--organize themselves and accomplish fabulously complex engineering and scientific tasks.

Prof. Stefanie Mueller (Associate Professor, MIT CSAIL)

Prof. Stefanie Mueller is an Associate Professor at MIT CSAIL. Her research focuses on lowering the entry barrier to personal fabrication, i.e. allowing more users to fabricate their own objects and increasing the complexity of objects users are able to make. To this end, Stefanie’s research lab develops novel prototyping toolkits that abstract away complex domain knowledge and enable users to focus on the end goal of what they are trying to build. Stefanie is also teaching several hands-on maker courses at MIT where has first-hand knowledge of the struggles students face when learning various maker skills.

Prof. Nathan Holbert (Associate Professor, Columbia University)

Nathan Holbert explores how children engage in testing, tinkering, and sense-making during play around topics or phenomena that they find personally engaging. In particular, he studies how children use intuitions about natural phenomena and scientific principles to interpret and assimilate central representations and tools found in play spaces, and how we might reconceive these environments to provide rich learning experiences that all children will see as highly connected to their personal values and goals as well as to formal tools and ideas. His work is situated squarely in the constructionist tradition and often involves the design and creation of useful and powerful educational tools in the service of the refinement and development of cognitive theory. His current research explores play and learning in diverse contexts (such as makerspaces, the beanbag chair, and the classroom) and domains (such as computer science, engineering, and the physical sciences).

Prof. Kayla DesPortes (Assistant Professor, New York University)

Prof. Kayla DesPortes is an Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction and the Learning Sciences at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Her research vision is to use computing education to empower learners who are typically marginalized by technology. To do this, she designs and studies artistic computing learning environments and technology. She works in collaboration with educators, learners, artists, and community organizations. This work has led her to explore ways for learners to leverage their cultures and values as they build expressive designs with computing. Her projects span across computer science, poetry, electronics, visual arts, photography, social action, machine learning, dance, and data science.

Prof. Marcelo Worsley (Assistant Professor, Northwestern University)

Marcelo Worsley is an Assistant Professor in Computer Science and Learning Sciences. He directs the technological innovations for inclusive learning and teaching (tiilt) lab, which aims to develop pedagogical and technological solutions for supporting learning among diverse populations in hands-on, collaborative, environments. More specifically, the goal of his research is to promote equity and advance society's understanding of how students learn in complex learning environments by forging new opportunities for using multimodal technology. The use of multimodal technology is multi-fold. First, the environments that he studies allow students to experience learning across a range of modalities. Second, he uses multimodal signal processing and artificial intelligence to study how student learning is demonstrated across different modalities and time scales. Third, he designs multimodal interfaces that support inclusivity and deepen student learning, while also considering ways to use multimodal data to support student and teacher reflection.

Prof. Jennifer Jacobs (Assistant Professor, UC, Santa Barbara)

Jennifer Jacobs is an Assistant Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara in Media Arts and Technology and Computer Science (by courtesy), where she directs the Expressive Computation Lab. She works across the fields of computational art and design, human-computer interaction, and systems engineering. Her research lab investigates ways to support expressive computer-aided design, art, craft, and manufacturing by developing new computational tools, abstractions, and systems that integrate emerging forms of computational creation and digital fabrication with traditional materials, manual control, and non-linear design practices. More broadly, her lab examines how we can enable art and design professionals to leverage their domain expertise to develop personal software tools.

Fraser Anderson (Sr. Principal Research Scientist, Autodesk Research)

Fraser Anderson is a Senior Principal Research Scientist at Autodesk Research in Toronto. He is interested in a broad array of novel interfaces, interactions, and sensing techniques, especially those that help with learning and augmenting people’s skills. Prior to joining Autodesk, he received a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computing Science from the University of Alberta where he studied surgical skill acquisition, technology for physical and occupational therapy, and cognitive and motor learning aspects of gestural interfaces.

Jun Gong (Research Scientist, Apple Research)

Jun Gong is a Research Scientist at Apple. His research spans a range of different topics in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). He designs, builds, and evaluates novel input and interaction for emerging platforms, media, and technology to provide enhanced and compelling user experiences. Besides contributing new sensing systems to the field, he is also interested in creating fabrication and circuit prototyping tools to facilitate the exploration of interactive devices for people without a strong hardware background.

Goals of the workshop

The goal of this workshop is to bridge the gap between (1) the research in the design and engineering of systems and (2) the research in the theories, frameworks, and practices of learning creative and maker skills. This workshop will provide a platform to bring together researchers in HCI from both these fields and provide an opportunity to:

  1. Exchange ideas and discuss opportunities and challenges across disciplines: We will lead multi-disciplinary expert panel discussions around the topics of designing systems for learning maker skills, constructivism and constructionism, existing learning frameworks in various artistic disciplines, and inclusivity in maker spaces. This expert panel discussion session will be recorded and the recording will be made available on the workshop website for asynchronous viewing.

  1. Promote collaborative research: We will lead brainstorming sessions with the workshop participants in smaller interdisciplinary groups and challenge them to reimagine ways of designing and engineering systems for learning creative and maker skills. The in-person attendees will brainstorm in smaller groups at the conference venue and the remote attendees will brainstorm in breakout rooms over zoom. We will make the experience reports and notes from these brainstorming sessions available on the workshop website for asynchronous viewing.

  1. Generate source material for interdisciplinary work: A repository of relevant cross-disciplinary literature and recommendations from the workshop will be made publicly available on the website to inspire new collaborative projects and inter

Workshop Schedule* (subject to change)


In-person Location: Room 293

Zoom: Join through HUBB Link


09:10 - 09:30 - Welcome introductions and icebreakers

09:30 - 10:30 - Discussion panel* (moderated by Dishita Turakhia and Jennifer Jacobs)

10:30 - 10:45 - Coffee Break (Organized by CHI)

10:45 - 12:00 - Focused brainstorming I (In groups of 5-6)

12:00 - 12:20 - Group Presentations I (3 mins/group)

12:20 - 13:45 - Lunch Break (Optional reservations)

13:45 - 14:30 - Paper Presentations (3-minute madness)* (3 mins/paper)

14:30 - 15:45 - Focused brainstorming II (In groups of 5-6)

15:45 - 16:00 - Coffee Break (Organized by CHI)

16:00 - 16:30 - Group presentations II (5 mins/group)

16:30 - 16:45 - Organizer summary*

* (recorded for asynchronous viewing)

*Note: To provide an opportunity for both in-person and remote attendees to participate in the workshop, we have designed this workshop in a hybrid format. All the sessions can be participated in by both the in-person participants and the remote participants. For the remote participants, there will be an AV setup for dialing in remotely. For brainstorming discussions, the in-person participants will form smaller groups for discussions and the remote participants will join breakout rooms for similar group discussions. The expert panel, experience reports, and organizer summary will be presented by the organizers to both - in-person participants and remote participants. The events will be synchronous, but all the material (such as recording of the expert panel session, and experience reports) will be made available on the website for asynchronous viewing.

In case of any unforeseen events, the workshop will be conducted in a remote format.

For further questions, please email to

Discussion Panel

Topics for discussion:

The history and trends in maker-space research

The development of new maker processes and the gaps in teaching them inside maker spaces

Smart maker-spaces and data-driven approaches toward learning

Designing equitable and inclusive environments to support creative expressions for diverse communities

Impact of remote learning on collaboration and social interaction within maker spaces