While students make in makerspaces, they traverse and integrate a variety of skills that create a dynamic relationship between learning processes, creative exploration, and expertise acquisition. We put forth that in order to certify and reveal the value of making, it is necessary to investigate this interplay between learning, creativity, and expertise using qualitative methods. This paper presents a comprehensive literature review and research initiative that demonstrate how to utilize ethnographic approaches to study learning in makerspaces. Specifically, we present initial steps to explore this dynamic relationship with the goal of answering the question What do students learn in universities makerspaces? At present, it is unclear what university students actually learn in university makerspaces, and how learning in makerspaces compares to learning in other hands-on learning opportunities such as competition team projects (e.g., SAE), undergraduate research, or other informal engineering learning environments. This research initiative focuses on two very different makerspaces at two different universities, which creates a unique opportunity for comparison. To study these spaces, we implement observation, participant observation, and interviewing of students, particularly on making. We envision this work as a springboard for further work in understanding makerspaces.

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