Integrating Design And Manufacturing Concepts To Strengthen Advanced Technological Education Programs

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  • Recent changes in the global business environment dictate the need for engineering technicians to obtain new skills in design-for-manufacturability, computer-aided design, teamwork, and communication. In addition, there is a significant workforce shortage of engineering technicians across the U.S., and particularly in the Midwest. As part of a three-year Advanced Technical Education (ATE) project granted by the National Science Foundation (NSF), this project focuses on improving the way that the aforementioned topics are taught in community college manufacturing education programs. It also focuses on increasing the pool of qualified applicants to these programs. Four flexible course modules and instructor-training materials were developed for integration into a wide range of existing curricula. These modules integrate design for manufacturability (DFM), teamwork skills (including communication skills) and parametric solid modeling (PSM) content to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of instruction in these areas. The modules were formed through the following three-year procedure: conceptualization, creation, pilot-testing, modification, field-testing, and evaluation. Different evaluation tools were created during the procedure, including instructor lesson surveys, student lesson surveys, student satisfaction surveys, knowledge tests in each subject area, teamwork skill evaluations, PSM skill evaluations, DFM skill evaluations, mental rotation tests (to test students’ spatial visualization skills), and an overall satisfaction survey. By and large, the evaluation results proved the effectiveness and usefulness of the curriculum. This project will produce larger numbers of better-prepared workers who will contribute to a more competitive U.S. manufacturing industry. The eventual impact on students is a heightened awareness of the intera