There is significant and growing interest in manufacturing; this is particularly true with respect to advanced manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing typically refers to the use of new technologies to make products that have high value or significant value added through the production process. One of the main impediments advanced manufacturing companies cite is the lack of a skilled workforce. This is the result of both a lack of technical skills, but also due to outdated and incorrect perceptions about manufacturing. Manufacturing is incorrectly perceived as low-skilled, dirty, and low paying. The reality is that a significant portion of manufacturing jobs require advanced technological knowledge and are done in state of the art facilities.
One of the more effective ways to increase knowledge about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers is to increase the knowledge of teachers. As part of a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education project, a group of high school teachers was offered the opportunity to work in advanced manufacturing labs with engineering faculty. These projects included additive manufacturing (AM) of ceramics, surface characterization of AM metal parts, and surface alteration. The teachers were tasked with developing lesson plans which incorporated the advanced manufacturing concepts that they had learned.
As part of the assessment of the program, teachers were given pre- and post- research experience surveys regarding their perceptions of manufacturing and their views of STEM topics in general; the later data were collected using the validated T-STEM instrument. External evaluation also provided feedback on the usefulness of various program activities. Overall participants found their laboratory research and research facility tours extremely useful. They felt that the program enhanced their excitement about STEM and their laboratory skills. Participants also showed significant increases in their post program technology teaching efficacy, student technology use, and STEM career awareness. In addition to empirical results, project descriptions and program details are also be presented.
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