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Eager: Creating And Evaluating A Makery Cloud

Investigators
Scott, Neil G; Truc Nguyen, Thanh
Institutions
University of Hawaii
Start date
2009
End date
2011
Abstract

Small businesses that produce innovative products are a key element for creating new job opportunities. But the current generation of high school students is poorly prepared to take advantage of these types of opportunities; the elimination of wood shop and metal shop facilities from schools, the demise of home workshops, and commercial pressures for off-shore manufacturing of low-cost consumer products have conditioned young people to believe there is no longer any need for them to know how to make things - they can just buy what they need ready-made. An unfortunate consequence is that many students have no practical grounding and appreciation for the relevance of applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and little motivation to learn these topics. In prior work the PI developed the concept of a Makery, a self-contained facility that offered a selection of hand tools, manually operated machines, and modern computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines for working with wood, plastic and metal. Makery activities were designed to reinforce theoretical learning with practical skills such as visualization, computer aided design (CAD), and a variety of manual and computer based fabrication techniques. A more compact version, the Classroom Makery, enabled students to design and fabricate objects within their own classroom rather than in a large-scale workshop environment. The Makery and Classroom Makery prototypes allowed the PI to demonstrate that students who learn to use modern CNC equipment become more interested and more involved in STEM. Yet schools that are lucky enough to own expensive CNC machinery often find teachers lack the time to learn how to use and integrate it into their teaching. The PI's goal in this exploratory research is to create and conduct an initial evaluation of a Makery Cloud in an effort to overcome space and knowledge limitations by enabling teachers, and eventually their students, to learn about and use CNC machines over the Internet. The PI will seek answers to questions such as the following. What telecommunication functions are required for providing a meaningful learning experience when teachers and students are learning to operate CNC machines remotely via the Internet? What additional physical, electronic, and software interlocks and control functions are required to cope with network latency and multiple control points, to ensure that CNC machines can be safely accessed and used when remotely controlled over the Internet? Does operating a CNC machine remotely via the Internet provide learning experiences for teachers and students that are equivalent to operating the same CNC machine directly, particularly with respect to safety and the acquisition of practical skils? To address these issues, a four-node collaborative network will be set up and operated on the Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii (the lead organization for the project), at the Connections Charter School in Hilo, at the West Hawaii Explorations Academy Public Charter School in Kona, and at the Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School in Pahoa. Project outcomes will include: Classroom Makeries will be established in Hilo and Kona; specialized skills and resources will be developed in Hilo (CNC Routing), Pahoa (CNC Turning), and Kona (CNC Milling); the existing Makery Portal will be expanded to include interactive project planning and management, resource location, instruction and production scheduling, distance learning with multiple audio and video streams, file transfers, and real-time control of CNC machines; two teachers from each school will be trained to teach project management and CNC fabrication; students will be involved as required by teachers to test remote teaching and experience-building strategies related to using Makeries to design and fabricate components for projects relevant to their class projects; exemplars of curricula and CNC projects for student and teacher training; and recommendations for setting up systems that enable students to fabricate parts for STEM-related projects by remotely controlling CNC machines over the Internet.
Broader Impacts: The Classroom Makery was designed to provide students with a practical grounding for their STEM studies by giving them basic design and fabrication capabilities within individual classrooms. The Makery Cloud extends this to enable teachers and students to fabricate objects that are too large or too complex to be done in their own Classroom Makery, by enabling them to control remotely located CNC machines. These capabilities will provide many benefits to schools, particularly those located in remote and under populated areas, including: collaborative hands-on training from highly qualified teachers and industrial trainers regardless of location; sharing of specialized knowledge and CNC machines among schools while still providing hands-on training and experience for users; access to specialized CNC machines owned by external organizations such as research laboratories and industrial partners; participation in collaborative projects in which each school provides their special CNC training and fabrication capabilities; and last but not least, students and teachers at schools that have no physical fabrication facilities will still be able to participate in projects that require design and build capability. The research will identify and implement practical, safe procedures for using the Internet to train teachers and ultimately, students, to use CAD, CAM, and CNC machines either locally or remotely. It will also help quantify the level of prior knowledge and experience teachers require for successfully incorporating CAD/CAM/CNC into their teaching, and the level of ongoing Internet support they will require.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project number
956632
Categories
Chemical Contaminants
Heavy Metals
Education and Training