Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Celebrates 25 Years

The 25th Anniversary of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program is a reason to celebrate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education circles.

For 25 years, the ATE program has invested in and grown technician education opportunities around the nation to prepare a “STEM-capable workforce.” That includes many different types of classes, modules, and certificate programs, in addition to traditional two-year degree programs that are already a strong part of the community college system.

Here are just a few of the statistics:

  • $1.1 Billion is the total NSF ATE Investment to date
  • 715 organizations have received ATE funding
  • 61 ATE Centers and 1,294 Projects have been funded by ATE
  • In FY2017, $66 Million Went To 300-plus Active Grants

All of these efforts focus on technician education, across the USA, to help students graduate, but also to help high tech employers in the workforce. Many of the programs highlighted in the annual report called “Impacts” are part of the TEAMM network, which is the sponsor of AM News. Throughout this coming 2018-2019 academic year, we are going to highlight the network member programs as found in Impacts and through direct interviews, when possible.

ATE Impacts explores and reports on seven major categories:

  1. Advanced Manufacturing Technologies
  2. Agricultural and Environmental Technologies
  3. Bio and Chemical Technologies
  4. Engineering Technologies
  5. General Advanced Technological Education
  6. Information and Security Technologies
  7. Micro and Nanotechnologies

Today we will look at one featured Project and one ATE Center:

Featured Project: AM-WATCH (Additive Manufacturing – Workforce Advancement Training Coalition and Hub)

According to Impacts:  “AM-WATCH provides opportunities for secondary school and two-year college students and educators to learn additive manufacturing technologies. More than 700 students were impacted positively by the project from fall 2017 to spring 2018.” It plans to add more locations to its existing 25 learning sites in Tennessee and Washington.

In a recent Train-the-Trainer Studio, educators were taught how to build 3-D printers to help them prepare technicians for additive manufacturing careers.  Results found that educators:

  • 77% increased their ability to design a system, component, or process
  • 80% increased their technical and nontechnical communication skills
  • Educators report AM-WATCH’s Train-the-Trainer Studios improved their performance on specific ABET accreditation skill sets

ATE Center: MatEdU – National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education

MatEdU is well-known as a materials technology education repository for educators and students. It appears in the number one spot for search engine results for a wide variety of materials science terms and directs students and educators to useful resources.

Students can learn about a variety of career pathways in materials science. Educators can find content that helps them plan a variety of lessons, entire courses as well as core competencies documents outlining required depth of proficiency for a range of related subjects, such as, manufacturing technology, corrosion technician, nanotechnologist, and more. Instructional resources include course designs, materials videos, and recommended book lists, to name just a few items from the Instructional Resources page.

Each year, MatEdU organizes a Materials in STEM conference (two days) known as M-STEM that attracts educators and students around the country. This year is hosted by the University of Alabama – Birmingham on November 5 and 6.

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You can read more about all of the ATE Centers and many of the featured projects by visiting ATE Impacts where you can download the digital edition (PDF) of ATE Impacts 2018-2019.

The Facility Is Creating A Sustainable Makerspace Model To Aid Student Job Potential

According to the Credit reporting site WalletHub, Washington State’s economy ranked No. 1 in the nation, driven by strong gross domestic product growth, exports, and the percentage of high-tech jobs. Those high tech jobs include careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  Of course, that would mean that advanced science fields, such as materials science and additive manufacturing rank high, as well.

Student education and workforce training programs contribute to that job growth and overall career opportunities. So, it comes as no surprise that Edmonds Community College enthusiastically supported the idea of creating a makerspace for students and the community. The makerspace is called The Facility and is housed in Monroe Hall, which is already a well-equipped materials science lab.

The Facility is different than many college makerspaces, however, because it is a hybrid model that allows student use and also invites the community, residents who are not students, to come and use the space at low cost. As you will hear in this short video, David Voetmann, Makerspace Program Manager of The Facility, explains how the process works for joining and participating in the space.

What is a Makerspace?

Briefly, a makerspace is like a woodshop or metal shop or automotive class that many area residents would remember. A place, as Voetmann says, to share tools and innovation. Except instead of only power saws or welders or impact wrenches, you would have 3D printers, laser cutters, or 5-axis CNC machines – computer-controlled milling machines that cut on multiple angles. In addition, Monroe Hall is unique in that it is home to equipment that can make something out of carbon fiber (materials science) via vacuum bagging and an autoclave, not your usual makerspace gear.

You can check out other TEAMM videos or look at the Materials Education channel on YouTube.

Resources for Starting Your Own Makerspace

Since two of the most popular machines in a makerspace are 3D printers and laser cutters (or laser engravers), it is logical that companies that provide those tools would have good resources.

3D printer manufacturer, Ultimaker, has a number of posts, books, and resources for school teachers, administrators, librarians (public and school), who might be interested to build a makerspace. One is called the Makerspace Bookshelf and the other helpful post is Fablab, makerspace, or hackerspace? –that highlights how to decide which one is right for your situation.

LulzBot, one of the dominant 3D printer brands in education, has a case study on the Loveland CreatorSpace: Come for the Tools, Stay for the People.

FormLabs, a resin-based 3D printer company, published Incentives and Ingredients for Building a Makerspacethat is instructive.

If you have been contemplating a laser cutter, and a variety of other equipment, Epilog Laser, based in Colorado, offers a number of posts and a downloadable guide for lasers in education to help you determine what you need as well as steps to take to get your space up and running. This post (though it presents a slight bias given what they sell) Why Will a Laser be the Most Popular Tool in My Makerspace? presents four reasons why a laser will be a hit in your makerspace, hackerspace, or fab lab.

Laura Fleming, an educator and media specialist, has written two excellent, best-selling books (also mentioned on the Ultimaker site). You can find both of them on her website: Worlds of Making. Both of them are about creating a makerspace in your school. They are also available on Amazon. She offers a steady stream of ideas and maker tips on her Twitter account – @LFlemingEDU.

The study mentioned earlier in the post: WalletHub study: 2018’s Best & Worst State Economies. This article on the Edmonds Community College website gives additional details of how the school intends to use the makerspace: The Facility and the Rapid Proto Lab at Edmonds Community College.

For more information visit The Facility website or email david.voetmann@edcc.edu.

Berkeley Lab Develops 3D Print Structures Composed Entirely Of Liquids

Just as people have begun to understand and use 3D printing, here comes a new technology: Liquid 3D printing from one of the top government labs. With 13 Nobel prizes, 70 scientists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences (one of the highest honors for a scientist in the U.S.), numerous National Medals of Science under their belt, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) knows a bit about how to adapt and tweak materials properties to get what they want.

Recently, the Berkeley Lab has developed a way to print 3D structures composed entirely of liquids (Full details linked at end of post). There are existing 3D printers that can do this, so, naturally, the Berkeley Lab team modified an existing 3D printer to do what they wanted: inject threads of water into silicone oil. This allowed them to sculpt tubes made of one liquid within another liquid. This YouTube video from the team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory elegantly demonstrates and explains how they got it to work.

The Berkeley Lab team believes their all-liquid material could be used to construct liquid electronics that power flexible, stretchable devices. If you have seen the new Samsung flexible, foldable phone screen, you have a rough idea of the concept in action.

According to the official post, “the scientists also foresee chemically tuning the tubes and flowing molecules through them, leading to new ways to separate molecules or precisely deliver nanoscale building blocks to under-construction compounds. The researchers have printed threads of water between 10 microns and 1 millimeter in diameter, and in a variety of spiraling and branching shapes up to several meters in length. What’s more, the material can conform to its surroundings and repeatedly change shape.”

Read more details about how the Lab created a nanoparticle “supersoap” – a surfactant that locks the water in place as they create tubes.

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If you are an educator interested in other materials science topics, please check out The National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU) with its database of educator-focused curriculum resources.

You may also be interested in the upcoming annual M-STEM event that brings together students, faculty, and business to strengthen understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) principles, especially relating to materials science, and to enhance K-20 technology education integration. Read more about M-STEM 2018 on November 5-6, 2018 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

Materials Scientists Working On Dental Enamel That Could Regenerate

You never know where an opportunity will present itself for a materials science technician. Your local dentist or dental lab may need help in the near future if this research from Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom develops.

Earlier this month, researchers announced they were working on a new way to grow “mineralized” materials that mimic hard tissues – dental enamel or bone.

The study, originally published in Nature Communications, show how new materials can be recreated to look and work like natural dental enamel. The researchers believe that it could help prevent tooth decay and sensitivity and also provide a way to treat those conditions.

According to the paper:

“Enamel, located on the outer part of our teeth, is the hardest tissue in the body and enables our teeth to function for a large part of our lifetime despite biting forces, exposure to acidic foods and drinks and extreme temperatures. This remarkable performance results from its highly organised structure.”

The paper cites “lead author Professor Alvaro Mata, also from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, who said: ‘A major goal in materials science is to learn from nature to develop useful materials based on the precise control of molecular building-blocks. The key discovery has been the possibility to exploit disordered proteins to control and guide the process of mineralisation at multiple scales. Through this, we have developed a technique to easily grow synthetic materials that emulate such hierarchically organised architecture over large areas and with the capacity to tune their properties.'”

Mimic other hard tissues

As the researchers understand and control how the process of mineralization works, they believe they will be able to mimic other hard tissues. That potential makes it interesting and valuable to other specialties within the medical and dental communities, particularly in regenerative medicine.

An understanding of how materials work is going to be increasingly valuable in our materials research-based world. Whether it is dental enamel, human bones, or carbon fiber, materials science technicians have a bright future.

More resources and information:

The full research paper was published at Nature Communications: ‘Protein disorder-order interplay to guide 1 the growth of hierarchical mineralized structures’. Sherif Elsharkawy, Maisoon Al-Jawad, Maria F. Pantano, Esther Tejeda-Montes, Khushbu Mehta, Hasan Jamal, Shweta Agarwal, Kseniya Shuturminska, Alistair Rice, Nadezda V. Tarakina, Rory M. Wilson, Andy J. Bushby, Matilde Alonso, Jose C. Rodriguez-Cabello, Ettore Barbieri, Armando del Rio Hernández, Molly M. Stevens, Nicola M. Pugno, Paul Anderson, Alvaro Mata.

Details from Queen Mary University of London news post: Scientists develop material that could regenerate dental enamel. The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant (STROFUNSCAFF) and the Marie Curie Integration Grant (BIOMORPH).

An early release of the research was featured in Labiotech.eu and it has a good breakdown of what it looks like and what it means for dentistry and for us as patients: Dental Enamel Biopolymers.

Photo used with permission from Queen Mary University of London. Credit: Alvaro Mata.

If you are interested in other materials science advancements for technician education (and future employment opportunity ideas), check out this post on TEAMM AM News: Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint.

Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint

Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint

Materials science is a somewhat quiet revolution. Many of the biggest and most valuable inventions have been fueled by materials science innovations over decades. From the foundational computer chip (made from silicon material, of course) to clusters of supercomputers at the Materials Project, research teams are now doing analysis and predictions of how materials can be combined in the most efficient way possible.

A practical outcome of this sort of advanced materials research is a project between Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research – that has found a way to change the wall in your home or apartment into a touchscreen interface.

According to the researchers, “the technique involves using water-based nickel conductive paint to create an electrode pattern (a diamond arrangement) suited to capacitive and proximity (electromagnetic) EM sensing. The pattern is then overpainted with latex paint. Each row and column is then connected to a sensor board based on a 96 MHz Cortex M4 running Teensy 3.2 firmware and piped to a laptop for visualization.”

In a nutshell, you could touch the wall to turn on a light – or the electromagnetic sensing would note your presence, your gestures, or your motion to perform an action – much like smart device users are starting to use the Amazon Echo to turn on a light or adjust the air conditioning with a voice command.

Importance to Materials Science Technician Education

The researchers call their system “Wall++” and believe that you could run a light switch or thermostat or other controllers from the wall itself. These materials science research projects are likely to create entire new categories of jobs for people to install, maintain, and service these advanced systems.

For more ideas or direction about advanced materials science technician training in the real world, check out the Nano-Link Regional Center for Nanotechnology Education, a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education program, that provides information on nano-tech and nano-materials. One of their industry affiliate partners is the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) which lists labs, tools, and experts.

Materials science may not be in the daily news, but it is consistently making headlines. A bright future is ahead for advanced materials and the technicians who want to be part of it.

Resources:

Hat tip to Peter Diamandis, profiled here in the AM News post, Materials Science and Additive Manufacturing Technology Convergence, in one of his recent email newsletters, shared an article link about the Disney Research work. The newsletter summary linked to this article at The Register: Turn that bachelor pad into a touch pad: Now you can paint buttons, sensors on your walls.

Here is the link to the Materials Project site mentioned above.