On June 18, Tennessee Tech joined tens of thousands of other Americans in the White House’s first-ever “Day of Making.” The initiative is intended to enhance awareness of STEM education and skills and set students down the path to innovation and entrepreneurship, as they explored technologies like 3D printers, laser cutters and design software. .
Tennessee Tech University’s College of Engineering took part as well, with high school students from central Tennessee learning to design and draw basic parts using design software, manufacturing those parts with the school’s 3D printers and assembling them as a product. The project’s final outcome was a simple Watt-style steam engine, molded out of ABS plastic in TTU purple.
The Day of Making activities are tied in with the ongoing Governor’s School initiative, which introduces students to a wide range of engineering disciplines. At TTU, computer science chairman Doug Talbert and mechanical engineering professor Chris Wilson. “Along with the Day of Making activities, we offer Governor’s School students plenty of exposure to high-level engineering technology, such as the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Labs,” said Talbert. “I think that Day of Making, together with Governor’s School, is an excellent way to give students hands-on experience with these technologies and resources.”
Based on the 18th century invention by James Watt, the engine built by students had nine separate parts, each of which was explained and discussed via design software before being manufactured with the 3D printer. Mechanical engineering faculty and students worked out the details of design and materials for each part in advance, to ensure proper fit and function.
Meanwhile, across campus at the Millard-Oakley STEM Center, another team of students were busy manufacturing a Newton Cart, using the same type of 3D printing and design. The Newton Cart is used for simple demonstrations of Newton’s second law of motion; as a rubber-band catapult propels a small mass from the cart, the cart rolls in the opposite direction as a reaction to the momentum generated. TTU’s news team was on site, covering the event via Twitter and a live video feed.
“Through the Governor’s School, we’ve been able to find out so much about these technologies,” said Tara Skiba, a 16-year-old from Clarksville, Tenn. “I’m especially interested in 3D printing, with all its applications for biomedical technology and other areas. I also appreciate the fact that we’re building a model steam engine, since that was one of the key inventions that sparked the Industrial Revolution a few hundred years ago.”