Promoting Advanced Manufacturing to K-12 Students Using the LegoTM-based Desktop Micro-factory Concept

A vast majority of American kids in the K-12 demographic are fascinated with Lego™ toys. A team of Rensselaer students led by Professor Johnson Samuel are leveraging this fascination, by promoting advanced manufacturing education/careers through designing a unique Lego™-based outreach module, centered on the concept of desktop micro-factories.

David Silverman and Chris Almodovar (pictured) have been part of an undergraduate student team who designed the novel hands-on manufacturing outreach module for 6-12th grade students. It includes an interactive 50 minute in-class activity demonstrating micro/nano-scale manufacturing techniques, using a Lego™-based three-axis motion platform. This unique three-axis motion platform demonstrates both additive and subtractive manufacturing concepts at the micro/nano-scale. Plus, the platform incorporates a Lego™ NXT controller, providing motion control over a volume of 10cm x 6cm x 15cm using stage encoders, with a positional accuracy of 0.35 mm. Then the manufacturing process gets even sweeter.

A battery-operated icing dispenser with different nozzle geometries is used as the tooling head to demonstrate additive manufacturing concepts. With the success of this module, students are now developing a Lego™-based micro-milling machine and a metrology unit. The student teams work closely with the Rensselaer Engineering Ambassadors program, targeting local student populations.