We all remember the days of yore, when vocational education was a true path to a job found in every high school. Auto mechanics, auto body, electronics repair, and even aviation mechanics were courses that made many students of the past choose jobs in various related fields. Those choices have been whittled down to a minimal level or even nonexistence thanks to budget cuts, but over the past couple of years there has been a renaissance of interest in these areas as the desperate need for skilled STEM workers puts the burden on K-16 educators. Creative STEM programs have brought some of these older voc- ed programs from the ashes, using the backdrop of collaboration between instructors who are building curriculum that integrates science, technology, engineering and math into new courses where students can use modern design techniques and equipment to build robots and alternative energy vehicles. Making do with what we have has brought a new sense of cooperation and integration of STEM topics in successful programs using project based learning. Thanks to open source hardware and software, many teachers are finding ways to make these programs cost effective once again, by using open source hardware that allows for inexpensive desktop 3D printing, and CNC conversions for older manual machines. Software to control these machines and designing things to be made with them is also possible using open source platforms.What’s next? How about open source aviation? Makerplane is a group that believes if they provide an open source design for a small airplane, flying in one’s own aircraft will become an achievable goal for everyone, not just the wealthy. Their intent is to use manufacturing methods such as 3D printing and personal CNC machines that are now available at reasonable cost to create safe, affordable airplanes. Makerplane’s plans include low cost, open source avionics hardware and software as well. Translating this philosophy to the needs of the STEM classroom poses some interesting opportunities to bring aviation and its many ties to STEM into schools on a level not seen in decades. We’re not talking model airplanes or tiny quadracopters here folks, as cool as they are. Aviation is a multidisciplinary field with many STEM related career pathways. If an open source hardware solution to aviation becomes a reality, schools will be able to generate a cornucopia of aeronautical engineers, aviation mechanics, fabricators, pilots and entrepeneurs that will help build the ranks of STEM innovators sooner than later.
CNC Machine A Robot Roving Eye Part II
CNC Machining an Arduino-Powered Robot Roving Eye.