July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Pre-College Engineering Education
The ongoing widening skills gap in the manufacturing workforce threatens the growth and sustainability of the U.S. manufacturing sector and economy at large. Stakeholders, including educators, industry associations, policy-makers and manufacturing firms, are seeking avenues to bridge this gap by expanding the pipeline of future manufacturing talent.
In this paper, we describe the application and assessment of an after-school experiential learning program using collaborative robots to introduce middle school students to robotics and advanced manufacturing methods with a larger goal of generating a future career interest in these domains.
The program aimed to (1) enable students to build an understanding of fundamental concepts of collaborative robotics in manufacturing; (2) encourage students to develop interests and industry-relevant skills which would prepare them as the next generation advanced manufacturing workforce. A pedagogical approach and curriculum, grounded in experiential learning theory, was developed. It involved: (1) hands-on activities on programming and operating collaborative robots and manufacturing machine tools; (2) 2D and 3D design and modeling projects; (3) use of student instructors as mentors; and (4) reflection sessions, all in a team-oriented and collaborative environment.
A total of 16 middle (grades 7 and 8) school students participated in the pilot program for a duration of 7 weeks. Pre- and post-surveys were administered to evaluate the program’s impact on participants. From the preliminary survey results, students reported feeling better informed about collaborative robots, how they are used in manufacturing, how to program them, as well as how to operate industry-standard machine tools.
This paper further discusses the lessons learned from the pilot offering of the program, specifically how we incorporate student feedback to improve our curriculum and pedagogical approach. Thus, this work in progress study may serve as a valuable guide for K-12 STEM educators interested in developing programs that inspire and equip pre-college students to pursue engineering careers, especially in manufacturing fields. Future work will enlarge the sample size of participants through additional offerings and include quantitative evaluations of instructional effectiveness in addition to the student surveys.
Mbanisi, K. C., & Shah, P., & Somasse, G. B., & Gangadia, D., & Gennert, M. A., & Towner, W., & Bergstrom, T. S. (2021, July), Preparing the Next Generation Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Using Collaborative Robots and Experiential Learning (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37597
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