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A Lego-based Outreach Module Aimed at Promoting Advanced Manufacturing Careers to K-12 Students in the United States

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.61.1 - 23.61.21



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Paper Authors


Christopher Andrew Almodovar Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Christopher Almodovar is a mechanical engineering student of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's class of 2013.

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Kyle Mattson Timken

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Kyle Mattson graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2011 with a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and again in 2012 with a Master's of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering. Both degrees were focused in manufacturing. He started with Timken, a bearing and power transmission company, in June as a participant in their Operations Development program.

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Evan Karl Day Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Sean McKibben Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Richard Yoo


Johnson Samuel Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Samuel is currently working as an assistant professor in the Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in NY where he spearheads research and education activities in the areas of advanced manufacturing and material design. He completed his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2009 under the guidance of Prof. Richard E. DeVor and Prof. Shiv G. Kapoor. His research interests lie at the confluence of advanced material systems and micro/nano-scale manufacturing processes. He is also deeply passionate about promoting advanced manufacturing education and careers to K-12 students in the U.S.

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David E Silverman

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A Lego-based Outreach Module Aimed at Promoting Advanced Manufacturing Careers to K-12 Students in the United States (Work in Progress) Advanced manufacturing has recently taken center-stage in the United States (US) with thefederal government rolling out major programs that are aimed at promoting US-basedmanufacturing. While these initiatives point towards a possible resurgence of the high-valuemanufacturing sector in the US, achieving the above goal is currently hampered by two majorroadblocks. First, there is a serious shortage of trained manufacturing professionals in the US,and second, there is a poor perception of manufacturing jobs amongst the youth in the US thathas affected recruitment and retention of professionals in this field. In the light of the currentcircumstances, there is a serious national need to recruit K-12 students to pursue manufacturing-centered education fields and careers. This paper presents the details of a novel Lego-basedmicro/nano-scale manufacturing education outreach module that has been developed specificallyto address this need. The three main goals of the outreach module include: 1) Pedagogically-appropriatepresentation of the current manufacturing workforce crisis and the need for trainedmanufacturing professionals in the United States; 2) Inspiring student interest in manufacturingengineering; and 3) Enable student learning by introducing additive and subtractivemanufacturing concepts at the micro/nano-scale. These goals are achieved through a highlyinteractive 50 minute in-class activity that comprises of a presentation that promotes activelearning and a hands-on demonstration of micro/nano-scale manufacturing techniques usingLego-based three-axis motion platforms. During the presentation, the module instructors beginby challenging the current notions of manufacturing that the students might have. The conceptsof additive and subtractive manufacturing and the notion of micro/nano-scales are thenintroduced by using common life examples. The size-scales are then tied into manufacturingconcepts such as tooling geometry and part specifications for miniature 3D parts. Once thisfoundation is laid, the instructors highlight the role that micro/nano-scale manufacturing plays inadvancing technologies such as micro medical robots, microprocessors and medical tooling. The heart of the outreach module is a Lego-based 3-axis motion platform that has beendesigned to demonstrate both additive and subtractive manufacturing concepts at the micro/nano-scale. The platform incorporates a Lego NXT controller that provides motion control over avolume of 10 cm X 6 cm X 15 cm using stage encoders with a positional accuracy of 0.35 mm.A battery-operated icing dispenser with different nozzle geometries is used as the tooling head todemonstrate additive manufacturing concepts. In addition to the additive manufacturing unit, aLego-based micro-milling machine and a metrology unit are under development. The finalconference paper will include the details of the outreach module content including the design andbuild of the motion platforms, the curriculum material and the assessment instruments used forthe outreach activity. In addition, the paper will also present the assessment results from theprograms that were run in local high-schools in upstate New York that point towards the efficacyof such modules. The results from this study have the potential to be adapted easily by varioushigh-schools to encourage K-12 students to pursue manufacturing-centered education and careeropportunities.

Almodovar, C. A., & Mattson, K., & Day, E. K., & McKibben, S., & Yoo, R., & Samuel, J., & Silverman, D. E. (2013, June), A Lego-based Outreach Module Aimed at Promoting Advanced Manufacturing Careers to K-12 Students in the United States Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19075

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