The engineering department at Union University has been working for the past three years in helping mold the next generation of engineers with the annual Make:able 3D Printing Challenge program.
“A few years back, we took a trip to Boulder, Colo., and we saw that there were all these summer camps for different things like what is prevalent around here for sports,” said Georg Pingen. “And they had sports camps there too, but there were other camps like science camps and robotics camps, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good for us to have similar camps around Jackson like this?’
“And at the time, I didn’t know if our equipment in our 3D printing lab could support a camp, but fortunately since then, we’ve upgraded our equipment and we’ve put together camps and the Make:able program.”
Make:able is an international program from the organization, Print Lab, based in England in which different schools, colleges and other organizations can be a part of the program, establish projects to complete in about a six-month period and submit for an international competition to compare and contrast the projects.
Students are divided into small teams and assigned a mentor who’s an engineering student in the department.
The competitions are broken into three age groups – younger than 14, ages 14-18 and older than 18. The projects are graded in six categories, with winners in each category and age group recognized.
So with a total of 18 categories (six in each age group), Union’s program won five first-place awards.
And while Pingen, who is a professor of engineering at Union, said the awards are something he’s proud of for the program, he said he’s more proud of the work the projects are doing for people in Jackson.
“The last couple of years, we’ve matched project teams up with a project that was needed for a community member at Therapy and Learning Center or The Star Center, to help improve their life in some way,” Pingen said. “And these projects are beneficial because they’re usually helping the person to be able to do something they’re not physically able, but insurance may not cover because it’s not a life-threatening situation for them.”
An example of this is the team called “Dawson’s Dream Team.” Dawson is a child in Jackson that was born with a few special needs that causes him unable to have a lot of mobility in his limbs or communicate effectively, so the range of toys he’s able to play with is limited.
The team put together a plan for a toy that he would enjoy that he could play with, and they developed a small table that he can sit at and press buttons. The buttons all have a Disney theme, and the video the team submitted to document their work showed them developing these buttons with different Disney characters on them and programed to make different noises or play songs.
The video showed Dawson’s hand hitting a blue button, which brought the sound of Donald Duck talking. Dawson can be seen in the video smiling big when he hears Donald Duck.
Other projects have helped people with mobility or communication or typing.
“I’m glad to see young people diving into engineering and 3D printing and possibly seeing what they’re inclined to do that they might not know if this weren’t present for them,” Pingen said. “But I’m glad that we’re able to do things for people in our community that need help.
“And the awards our students won just shows how well they’re putting their projects together from the design stages to the application.”
Brandon Shields, firstname.lastname@example.org