Working to provide the research, of NSF and the ERC/RMS, to communities beyond our own, the ERC has nurtured growth in three areas of outreach: (1) College-level, (2) Grades K-12, and (3) the Community.
REU Program: Our efforts have generated tremendous interest in the research Experience for Undergraduates program. The program is based on a team approach, where the REU students work in teams of three or four under the supervision of an ERC graduate student and faculty. Interested candidates come from schools such as Jackson State University, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, Tuskegee University, University of New Orleans, Tougaloo University and Morgan State University to name a few. The programs have been so successful that past REU participants have become University of Michigan applicants and graduate students.
In 2005, 14 REU students worked in 3 teams on research projects within the ERC. Eight of the students were in the original REU grant program, three joined the REU group through the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) and three joined the REU program through the Florida A&M University REU Program (FAMU REU). We continue to invite an average of 8 students per year in the program and we continue to include students from the FAMU and TCUP programs in the REU. Information on those programs follow:
Florida A&M University Research Experience for Undergraduates (FAMU REU)
The FAMU REU began in June 2005, and ran parallel to our standard REU program through the month of July. We invited four students from Florida A&M University to participate but one student was unable to come for personal reasons. Florida A&M University and Florida State University have a partnership program in engineering. For that reason, we invited a faculty member from each university to travel to the University of Michigan to attend the final student presentation symposium in late July. In addition to the symposium, they attended a student/faculty luncheon in the Mechanical Engineering department at which the students presented their research both as an oral presentation and in poster format. One of the students was offered admission to the Department of Mechanical Engineering for Fall 2006, and accepted the offer. We continue to invite up to six FAMU students each summer and also continue to offer them a second summer’s research experience in order to further encourage them to attend graduate school at UM. We continue our relationship with the Rackham graduate school to leverage the availability of their shared programming.
Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems/Tribal Colleges and Universities Partnership (RMS/TCUP)
The goal of the ERC is to involve Native American students in the field of manufacturing engineering and mentor them through their undergraduate and graduate school careers to ultimately see them enter the professional arena. To address the shortage of underrepresented ethnic minority participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), the ERC works toward the development of a diverse, competitive workforce of scientists, engineers, and well-prepared citizens.
Engineering for Community Course
Fall 2004, ERC student Jeremy Michalek participated in a larger effort to design, develop, coordinate, and teach a new interdisciplinary course called ENGR 490: Engineering for Community, which brought a mix of undergraduate and graduate students together to study issues of sustainable development, appropriate technology, social and cultural awareness, communication, and the role of engineering in society. Students explored the concepts through readings, activities, simulations, dialogue, and reflection papers, and each student team applied the concepts to a hands-on community development project. Student community projects included developing biodegradable soap that could be produced with indigenous materials in India, developing modular self-constructed affordable housing, building affordable internet capabilities in Detroit, protecting local watersheds from damage, and designing improvements to a women’s shelter in Detroit.
Greenfield Coalition/Focus: HOPE Project
As part of our collaborative effort with the Greenfield Coalition, we developed interactive modules on Introduction to RMS and Design for RMS. These interactive software modules are designed for middle and high school, vocational/community college, undergraduate, and graduate students. They are designed to train end users, regardless of level of understanding of RMS, on systems engineering and manufacturing. Tutorials help students understand system analysis from various perspectives at multiple levels. The modules have been used in our graduate course, Science Base for RMS.
DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program)
ERC/RMS students and staff have worked with talented 7th and 8th grade students to foster an early interest in manufacturing through this highly successful program. We have offered two themes for the students to choose from: “Making of the Automobile” and “Learning New Ways of Making Things.”
The popular and competitive DAPCEP program brings students from historically underrepresented groups to the ERC/RMS to participate in fun but educational activities. DAPCEP’s effectiveness is demonstrated by the fact that some of our ERC students were former DAPCEP participants and are eager to volunteer as teachers and aids in this very successful program.
Area middle and high school students are introduced to manufacturing engineering through this innovative hands-on engineering program. Students are first taught a course on CAD and simple computer programming. Building upon these skills, they then learn about and use a robot and milling machine. This project allowed students an opportunity to see a project to completion from the concept and design phase, to manufacturing a simple product. This program has introduced manufacturing engineering to over 1,400 students.
Research Experience for Teachers
The goal of the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program was to involve middle and high school technology education teachers in the field of manufacturing engineering and equip them with the necessary teaching materials and tools to ultimately enable them to disseminate manufacturing engineering concepts to their students. The Portable Manufacturing System (PMSP) was the project used for the teacher training. We worked with faculty and graduate students from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) to deliver this RET program to four middle school teachers, two high school teachers and one student teacher all currently working in the southeastern Michigan area. Eastern Michigan University is one of the largest teacher training universities in the United States.
The ERC/RMS education staff has hosted more than 200 K-12 students in the Center through our innovative half-day programs. Partnering with existing outreach programs in the College such as Tech Day, the Summer Enrichment Program, the Summer Apprenticeship Program, the Alliance for Learning and Vision of Underrepresented Americans, and the Summer College of Engineering Exposure Program, the ERC is able to educate a diverse group of students about the basics of RMS and manufacturing while they participate in a fun team project.
Lab Tours and Demonstrations
We open the lab for tours and demonstrations for the IMPACT graduate recruitment weekend, the Sallie Ride Festival, high school girls attending the Exploring Computer Careers Exposition, the Mechanical Engineering prospective student visitation and Graduate Student Information Day.
The ERC staff and students created a coloring and activities book targeting 7 to 10 year old students to introduce them to the history of manufacturing and reconfigurable manufacturing concepts and terminology. The book has been distributed to visitors in the Center, teachers involved in the Research Experience for Teachers and also to people who have seen announcements of the book and have requested a copy. In August, 2005, we took the book to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers who were so impressed with it, that they provided funding through their membership companies for the production and distribution of nearly 10,000 copies to Michigan schools.
ERC staff and students are now working on a book for younger children that will include stories, games, puzzles, party ideas, inventor biographies, etc. The heavily illustrated book is tentatively titled “The Kitchen Table Fun Book of Manufacturing.”
To extend its educational reach to the non-university population, in particular pre-college students, the ERC/RMS has invested in designing and developing a museum exhibit that offers a visitor-centered experience highlighting the principles of modern manufacturing. The project aims to bridge the technological literacy gap: while the majority of the youth and adult population is very familiar with a wide variety of available consumer products, they most likely hold no concept of how these products came to exist or how they were made. The exhibit explains the main processes in any product development (design, manufacturing and business) on an example of a simple product (pen) using interactive software (games). The project team completed construction and testing of the system and installed it in the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in August, 2004. According to museum officials, the ERC project is one of their most popular stand-alone exhibits.