UVa, Local Schools Create First U.S. Lab School for Advanced Manufacturing Technology

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March 4, 2013

A $300,000 grant from Governor Bob McDonnell is giving the state a chance to make history by putting a special laboratory school in local middle and high schools.

When you think of engineering, you might think of rulers, long math equations and mechanical drawing. Not anymore.

The engineering and education students are partnering with local schools for the first lab school in the U.S. to teach advanced manufacturing technology. Professors at the engineering school say this is the way of the future and the way Virginia will breed the next generation of inventors and engineers.

"I never thought about engineering before but it's just really cool that I can make something that you can actually hold in your hand and it's made from a printer," said Buford Middle School 8th grader Angie Salinas.

A big part of advanced manufacturing technology is 3-D printing. It's something UVa is at the forefront of and even collaborates with Rolls Royce to help create and print projects with them.

"We're both allowing our students to in K-12 schools to participating in these leading technologies but a related goal is to learn science through engineering design," said Glen Bull, the Co-Director of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education.

Bull says it's all about teaching science through context. The days of learning how things work from just an image in a textbook are probably over. Using design programs and 3-D printers, people young and old can make anything.

In the 3-D printing Rolls Royce center in the mechanical engineering building at UVa, everything from chess pieces to a jet engine structure were printed out of these machines using standard plastic.

Engineering students could then show them what they've learned to make in their college course and how that could help the younger students learn exactly how everything works.

"You can learn science more effectively when it's in context. So if students study acoustic principles and then make a working speaker they get the chance to try out the design concepts they learn in physics," Bull said.

And that's exactly what Angie Salinas and Carrington Gallihugh did in their 8th grade science class.

"Just knowing that I can make these speakers that play music out and it wasn't that hard it was amazing," Gallihugh told us after playing Justin Bieber from the stereo that she printed and made work.

"When one of the students that's in 8th grade at Buford, come to the School of Engineering and then, in turn mentors a student in the K-12 school...then we will have come full circle," Bull says.

Construction at the lab school in Buford will begin in June and be done in August.

To learn more about the the partnership and lab schools in Albemarle and Charlottesville schools you can click here.

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