Georgia Tech to Start High School Manufacturing Programs

The Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide manufacturing education programs to high school students.  The base development contract includes about $1 million for the first year, with the potential of $10 million over four years to expand the projects.

Georgia Tech will provide prize-based educational challenges for high school students, encouraging them to use the latest technology to design and build items such as wind-turbine blades, mobile air and ground robots and electric car bodies–hopefully inspiring the next generation of manufacturers.

The project is part of DARPA’s Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach (MENTOR) program.  MENTOR is aimed at bolstering the U.S. manufacturing industry by sparking teens’ interest in engineering, design manufacturing, math and science-related university programs.  Georgia Tech is one of several organizations awarded a contract from DARPA to help with the initiative.

“We want to change the mindset out there about manufacturing,” said David Rosen, Georgia Tech professor of mechanical engineering and co-principal investigator on the contract.  “We’re trying to use the latest technologies to attract a new generation into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas and the manufacturing career field.”

Georgia Tech’s program will focus on introducing students to design and manufacturing processes by using 3-D printers and additive manufacturing.  Social media will also play a role.  Students will be able to connect via social networking sites and form teams that will compete to showcase their work.

For the first two years of the project, Georgia Tech will work to get ten high schools in Georgia involved in the program.  The goal is to expand the program to 100 high schools across the country by year three and 1,000 high schools globally within four years.

Georgia Tech will be working with key partners to make the program a reality.

Dassault Systemes, a global company specializing in 3D and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, is providing the Georgia Tech project team with its PLM V6 academic software and its expertise in designing educational projects It is also providing user-friendly tools that will allow thousands of students across multiple sites to collaborate in a crowdsourcing fashion in design and manufacturing.

Georgia Tech is also partnering with two leading U.S. rapid prototyping providers, 3D Systems and Stratasys, which will help equip the high school teams with the latest manufacturing tools, including 3-D printers.

The program will add onto the Engineering Design Summer Camp that has been conducted for the past four years in Georgia Tech’s Integrated Product Lifecycle Engineering (IPLE) Laboratory in the School of Aerospace Engineering.

Expanding the program to hundreds of high schools could help create a resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S., researchers said.

“What we’re trying to do is make manufacturing an attractive career path,” said Daniel Schrage, professor and director of the IPLE Laboratory and co-principal investigator on the contract.  “A lot of students in college don’t look at manufacturing as the best choice of jobs; they would rather go into design or analysis.  You can have the most beautiful design, but if you cannot build it and you can’t operate it, it’s not successful. So we’re trying to change the culture from that perspective.”

Written by Liz Klipp

For more information, visit: www.ae.gatech.edu

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