Maker Spaces, Problem-based Learning and the Manufacturing Revival

The New England Journal of Higher Education has a piece on the role higher education is playing in New England’s manufacturing revivalmfg through the proliferation of such facilities as “Maker Spaces, Fabrication Labs, Hacker Spaces and Tech Shops” that introduce students to the processes involved in design, prototyping and manufacturing itself.

This activity is responding to a manufacturing revival of sorts:  “. . . .[Despite] the decline in manufacturing jobs across New England, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut now boast manufacturing concentrations, or clusters, far exceeding the national average. And with the region’s strengths in education and research, Brett posits that New England is well-poised for resurgence in the sector, and particularly in advanced manufacturing, which has been defined as “manufacturing that entails rapid transfer of science and technology into manufacturing products and processes.”. . .

According to the Journal, another role education is playing in the nascent manufacturing revival is fostering problem based learning (PBL) in courses and curricula:

[The New England Board of Higher Education]’s Advanced Manufacturing Problem Based Learning (AM PBL) project focuses on New England’s advanced manufacturing sector, and has partnered with companies to develop Challenges in advanced quality systems, medical devices, nanotechnology, semiconductors and sheet-metal fabrication.

“Problem based learning is such an important aspect of career development and skill development, and it’s not something that is fully utilized in classroom settings,” said Kelli-Marie Vallieres, president and CEO of Sound Manufacturing in Old Saybrook, Conn., an AM PBL Challenge partner on a sheet-metal fabrication problem.

“Students don’t always understand the practical aspects of what they’re learning—like how important the math is connected to what they are actually going to do in the workforce,” said Vallieres. “Without problem based learning, that disconnect continues, and it impedes the interest that some people have to move into certain careers.”

The full post is here.

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