As you make your case for adding digital fabrication technology to your school, this background material and list of resources may be of value to you and your colleagues:
Digital fabrication tools are becoming a focus for new types of technology training in educational settings. As the traditional model of vocational training has waned, many school systems are adapting with newer technologies. Along with the newer technology comes a training model that provides learning experience that readies students for advanced, well-paying positions and that teaches about growing and adjusting to new technology rather than just acquiring rote skills for individual machines or specific production processes.
There are now opportunities to provide students with training in emerging areas that are increasingly the standards for manufacturing, production, and service in our global competitive world. Students exposed to these new technologies can enter the field with knowledge that allows them to begin their careers with positions, not just jobs.
Traditional trades such as furniture making, cabinet building, construction, boat building, metal working, mold making, sign building, etc. are all making the transition to computerized machinery. As competition from abroad threatens many “old school” businesses, there will be a tremendous need for trained CNC operators and programmers in the next decade and beyond. This means a student can now enter a shop and command not only a better position, but a better salary.
One of the major factors that supports this shift is that students today, from early ages, are knowledgeable and comfortable with computers and their many uses. They have used them in school for years, as well as at home. This familiarity with computers has made the introduction of CAD/CAM software much easier, and more importantly it has given them a set of skills that are often superior to those of the established professionals in many of the industries they are entering. They are very comfortable with using computers to do things and make things, and with the relationship between a software control system, a file of instructions and a physical tool. These students can now move into industry and instead of becoming a “gopher” performing basic - often menial - dead-end services, they can enter a shop or factory with the knowledge to perform tasks their employers have yet to master. This in turn opens new career paths which make them much more employable, and valuable as employees.
Schools have the challenge of providing their students with real-world training, and this can be done via inter-departmental co-operation. For example, the computer classes work on the development of skills using CAD drawing programs. These skills can be used in art, theatre and business coursework. Vocational and technical departments provide projects and CNC machinery to realize designs in real world products and test skills with hands-on applications. Depending on the orientation of the staff, practical projects can be arranged that not only provide students further experience, but provide services and support within the school system or community because this CNC technology will do real work. Here are some examples;
Here are some organizations that provide grants and awards for educational initiatives such as the purchase of digital fabrication equipment. They are for schools as well as community-based projects. We encourage you to explore these opportunities, and do your own web research to find other possible sources of funds.
These support points are provided by technology educators from around the country who have implemented ShopBot Tools with great success. These thoughts can help you make your case for adding digital fabrication technology. The list of points was prepared with the purchase of ShopBots in mind; however, you'll see that the points offered are relevant to many tools and methods of digital fabrication. We should emphasize the importance of personalizing your funding request/proposal to reflect the uniqueness of your school system and its needs.