I teach Introduction to Engineering Design and Robotics I and II to 14 through 18 year old students, many of them from low income or ESL households. They are bright and ambitious and very hands on in their approach to learning.
Learning by building is the preferred learning style of my students.
Designing and constructing projects bring out their creativity and enthusiasm in ways I haven't seen from pencil and paper assignments. My students take pride in the things they build. They make connections between the physics I teach and the objects they make.
My goal is to introduce my students to the tools and knowledge they will need for future careers. I want to help them be comfortable working with technology and become self-guided learners.
Our 21st century students have grown up surrounded by electronic marvels. They intuitively switch from device to device. But for all their tech savvy my students have less of an understanding of how mechanical devices work. Since robotics requires the use of both programming and mechanical engineering I need a way for students to improve their mechanical thinking skills.
Using automata - playful wooden hand cranked toys - my students can build an understanding of mechanical theory.
Automata use cams, gears and other simple machinery to add motion to cartoon-like figures. Usually made of wood, automata uses rotary, oscillating, linear and reciprocating motion to intertain.
My students already learn how to create 3D models of objects. By creating automita they will learn to visualize how moving parts interact. The CNC router provided by this grant will allow the students to cut their designs and assemble working automita. By upgrading the CNC router with the water-cooled spindle (also in the grant) student can cut pieces faster so more students can finish their work during class time.
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