I teach at Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences, a charter school in the Baltimore City Public School System serving students grades 6-12 (http://mathsbaltimore.org). Our students deal with a host of urban and economic challenges while receiving an education that makes them competitive in the 21st century job market. There are high rates of poverty and crime in the community, and there is little investment by public or private enterprise to create job opportunities.
One of the biggest things my students are missing is inspiration: inspiration to pursue in-demand careers in technology & engineering, inspiration to persevere through academic struggles, inspiration to pursue a life beyond their insulated (and often troubled) community.
This year, I’ll be teaching a class called Introduction to Engineering Design (http://www.pltw.org/our-programs/engineering-curriculum#High_School_Engineering_), which is part of the high school engineering program Project Lead the Way (http://www.pltw.org). The focus of this course is three-fold: develop technical communication skills, learn about the design process, and develop skill at 3D modeling. The important advantage students will get from this class is proficiency with the professional 3D modeling software Autodesk Inventor (http://usa.autodesk.com/autodesk-inventor/). This is a great opportunity for my students because they’ll be able to assemble a portfolio of work to show prospective employers in industry their aptitude with CAD software.
While the course’s curriculum does an excellent job introducing the ideas of engineering and design analysis to students, it doesn’t focus on “wowing” the students with the awesome possibilities of engineering. For my students, this class needs to be about inspiring the future pursuit of engineering just as much as it’s about learning the design process and basics of 3D modeling.
The previous instructor for this course at my high school found it challenging to inspire students to pursue engineering when they could never interact with their designs as a final, physical product. The perfect addition to this course would be a way to actually produce the 3D models the students design in Autodesk Inventor, and a company has recently achieved a relatively inexpensive way to do this - The MakerBot (http://www.makerbot.com/).
Recently released for sale, the MakerBot is an alternative for 3D printing compared to the industrial models seen elsewhere. 3D printing allows the user to create a plastic version of anything designed using CAD software. With a MakerBot in the classroom, students can take the design from their imagination, create the 3D model in Inventor, and print it out in plastic by the end of the day.
This is the just the sort of inspiring addition the Intro to Engineering Design class needs: the MakerBot is capable of being the “wow” factor that can help plant the idea of becoming an engineer in a student’s mind.
Please consider contributing to this project to help inspire these students to pursue careers in engineering and technology. The funding for this project will purchase a MakerBot for the class, enough plastic for the first year, and pay for any shipping costs related to the rewards earned by backers.
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