Appears in:
Pages: 6069-6076
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.2373

Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain


C. Lorenzo

CEU University (SPAIN)
In the current paper it is documented an on-going educational program designed at the Digital Fabrication Laboratory based at CEU University (FabLab Madrid CEU) to teach high-school students STEM in a university environment through digital fabrication technologies. Inspired by the ideas of Neil Gershenfeld and Paulo Blikstein, we are using digital fabrication as a learning tool through which we attempt to create a working educational environment to improve the motivation of the students to finish their pre-college studies and to start a career at the university.

The high-school weekend program was created to allow the interaction of high-school and university students from different backgrounds (engineers, architects and designers) that work at the FabLab during the weekend to solve a challenge, as for example the design and fabrication of a mini-rocket with digital fabrication tools. The idea was to take advantage of the interest that students might find out in a mini-rocket competition to make math and physics for them useful for the design of the mini-rocket. To that end, the workshop required an introduction to teach some concepts related to physics and math that could be applied for each group of students to determine the mini-rocket shape and to solve problems related to the geometry of each part as for example, how to slice the model into smaller parts that should be later assembled or how to use measurement tools and Boolean operations to work in a 3D design environment.

During the workshop each group of students had to design and fabricate a mini-rocket and at the end of the program a competition was held to launch the mini-rockets at the airdrome and test which of them went up higher. The competition attempted to give students a chance to compete with other groups and to cooperate with their classmates to get a good score. But most important than that was the possibility that the championship offered to play with others. This idea of playing involves enjoying while learning as a way to better understand and interiorize concepts and ideas and at the same time, show students that fun and enjoying doesn´t mean easy and involves hard work to get a good result. The main idea was that during the workshop students should be in charge of the technology, not the technology in charge of them, offering what was a new image of children using computers as tools for creativity. Students used the machines in a variety of ways that we couldn’t predict beforehand to build their prototypes. As a result of their imagination and ideas, no any of them was fabricated using the same proceedings and materials. Some of them used 3D printing technology; some other used the laser cutter and even vinyl cutter machines.

The first results based on a general data analysis seems to prove that the program increase the motivation of the students on STEM courses. It seems that the program achieve the objective of encouraging students to enjoy technology and make it part of their future life as some of the students are now enrolled in our degree programs at the university. So it seems that the succeed on the program implementation confirms the potential of digital fabrication to be used as learning tool, through which it is possible to create a working educational environment to show high-school students practical applications of the theoretical concepts that they are acquiring during pre-university studies guiding them to the university studies.