Lab School for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies

Teacher and students working on computer-aided design before printingThe University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and School of Engineering and Applied Science are collaborating with Charlottesville and Albemarle County public schools to establish the first U.S. Laboratory School for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies.

Laboratory schools are model schools operated by a university in collaboration with a local school system. The lab school will provide training for students in science and engineering in preparation for high-tech jobs and will help prepare future teachers in the integration of engineering concepts into science education.

“This partnership has great potential not only to foster advanced technical training and career-pathway skills for local students interested in manufacturing, but as a proof of concept in education innovation that we hope to replicate and evaluate more broadly,” said Curry School dean Bob Pianta.

Advanced manufacturing technologies for the laboratory school will be installed at Buford Middle School, Sutherland Middle School, Charlottesville High School and Albemarle High School. The sites will each be linked to each other and the University via a videoconferencing system.

The lab school will begin offering classes for the 2013-14 school year to eighth-graders, with around 500 eligible students at Buford and Sutherland, and will expand by adding a new grade level each subsequent year, said Curry School professor Glen Bull, the co-principal investigator for this initiative with Engineering professor Hossein Haj-Hariri, chair of U.Va.’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Science classes will incorporate engineering design. High school students will have the option to participate in an “Advanced Manufacturing” career track, earning dual-enrollment credit through Piedmont Virginia Community College.Students watching their 3D design being printed

U.Va. engineering and education students will collaborate with lab school science teachers to provide opportunities for students to learn science in a meaningful context,  as they use the latest 2D and 3D manufacturing technologies for rapid prototyping of their computer-aided designs.

“The University of Virginia has greatly advanced its capabilities and expertise in advanced manufacturing over the past several years,” Engineering School Dean James H. Aylor said. “Our Mechatronics Lab and our Rapid Prototyping Lab have provided our students with opportunities to design and produce devices quickly.”

Haj-Hariri, chair of U.Va.’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said that today’s 3D printing technology is at a stage similar to the personal computer in the 1980s.

“Whereas there are a number of schools of engineering, or schools of education who are undertaking similar endeavors, U.Va.’s is the only activity that truly is a partnership between the schools of education and engineering,” he said. “Our undergraduates will be teamed up with school teachers in various introductory courses, and will have the ability to feed back into the science courses of K-12 and help improve the outcome.”

The collaboration will address the U.S. need for global technology competitiveness and President Obama’s challenge to prepare more U.S. citizens for high-tech jobs. It will also complement University and private partnerships such as the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a collaborative research center located in the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe Center in Prince George County. The center brings global manufacturing companies together with researchers from U.Va., Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, along with its own expert engineers and scientists, to work together on challenges common to advanced manufacturing.

Construction on the lab school is slated to begin June 6 at Buford Middle School and will be complete for the beginning of school in August. All Buford students will have the opportunity to participate in the innovative science courses. Additional construction at Charlottesville High School is planned for 2014.

A $300,000 Virginia College/University Partnership Laboratory School Application Planning Grant will support design and implementation of the lab school. Additional funding support has come from the Charlottesville City Council. Support from the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, Motorola Solutions Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and Microsoft funded development of printer technologies for school applications, as well as curriculum development.

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