Picture above – Left: Tennessee Tech graduate research assistant Vivekanand Naikwadi provides a demonstration of the vat photopolymerization printer that uses liquid resin to produce 3D designs while training day participants observe the process. Right: Chris Applegate from Dupont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky., watches the material extrusion printer lay filament to create a 3D design. He was one of 20 instructors selected from high schools and community colleges in Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana to participate in the recent additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – training day at Tennessee Tech.

Each participant also received an equipment package valued at around $2,000

A Tennessee Tech University professor who specializes in additive manufacturing processes – or 3D printing – shared expertise and equipment with an exclusive group of other educators from three states this summer.

Ismail Fidan, a manufacturing and engineering technology professor at Tech, first teamed up with Somerset Community College in Kentucky in 2019 for a National Science Foundation grant that provides training and equipment to selected educators in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math) from the Appalachian regions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity for hands-on training was limited until now.

“Twenty STEM instructors from high schools and community colleges were selected [for the training] from a pool of about 75 applicants,” he said.

In addition to receiving information about the latest additive manufacturing technology, each participant also received an equipment package valued at around $2,000. 

Applicants were required to submit a resume, detailed statement about the instructor’s current teaching interests and plans for how to implement the workshop information and equipment in their own classrooms and curricula. All 75 of those application packets were peer-reviewed, and invitations to the event were made based on the criteria of need, intellectual merit of practices and potential for broader impact. 

“The 20 core winners and four waiting list winners were selected, [and because] one had a conflict…we picked the first person on our waiting list,” Fidan said.

Several Tech graduate assistants led presentations and demonstrations during the workshop. Those topics related to operating the 3D printers that attendees would take back to their own institutions, preparing design files and maintaining the 3D printers.

Other workshop topics included innovations, entrepreneurial practices, applications, and tools and technologies to deliver the greatest impact to students in labs and lectures across the participating institutions.

The equipment package includes a Bambu Lab 3D printer that runs with material extrusion and a spool of filament for it, an Elegoo 3D printer that runs with vat photopolymerization and a bottle of resin for it and a toolbox for maintaining both printers.

“They learned about the latest additive manufacturing technology, and they shared the best practices about their own schools during the day-long training,” Fidan said.

That session kicked off with a message from Michael Tinsley, an assistant vice chancellor for student success at the Tennessee Board of Regents. He expressed his appreciation for Fidan, his graduate students and Tech for hosting the session, as well as the educators from other institutions who attended. 

Tinsley said the importance of such trainings is that participating instructors can take cutting-edge knowledge and equipment back to their home institutions, so their students continue to be engaged and attentive to the learning objectives – and ready for careers in those fields when they complete their programs of study.

“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be today than right here, supporting the mission of this workshop,” Tinsley said.

Participants described projects their high school and community college students had worked on, from rocket launchers and STEM guitar kits to automated medication dispensers and art department collaborations.

Not only was it an excellent networking opportunity for participating educators to share their experiences with each other, but it was also a chance for Tech graduate assistants to gain valuable professional experience as they led some of the information sessions and demonstrations.

“I am a strong believer that Tennessee Tech has wonderful students, and the university helps them to flourish so they can lead the workforce of the 21st century,” Fidan said. 

The greatest single success of the event, however, was the positive impact it will have on instructors and students of other learning institutions across Appalachia, he said.

“My model is ‘train the trainer.’ With these funds, we are able to train the STEM educators so they can train their students. The impact is that all our students have greater future opportunities with the knowledge they gain through these events,” Fidan concluded.

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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