The Mobile Education Kit Concept with Example.
The National Bureau of Product Research’s first education project will be a mobile education kit. This is an overview of what a student/learner might experience when being guided through a story within the kit.
Picture a table at a community center where an educator and three students gather. The educator has been trained in how to use the kit and ideally has some engineering/mechanical background.
1) The students observe as the educator rolls up a small chest filled with drawers. It functions similarly to the tool chest pictured at left.
2) Within the chest are drawers. Some drawers are filled with parts and pieces. Other drawers are filled with books and graphics.
Out of one of the drawers the educator pulls out 4 examples of pin (from the 20 or so provided) and gives each student one to hold and examine.
This pin is small, and looks simple. It isn’t something a person could get at a hardware store. It’s extremely light and the educator points how it makes a nice “ting” when you flick it with your fingernail. It’s gold, but a different shade and more muted than the gold on jewelry. It’s made of metal, but what kind of metal? What was this piece used for?
4) The educator then pulls from the rolling chest a large, coffee table sized book filled with hundreds of interesting drawings, pictures and short articles. In this book, there are drawings and reference material for many of the part examples in the chest. Intrigued, the group gathers around the book that has been turned to the correct page by the educator. There, the students see the this drawing:
It’s a technical drawing of the pin they have in their hands. The educator and/or students read a short explanation of the physical properties of the pin. The group takes a moment to discuss such details of the pin as:
A) This 1.32-inch long piece was milled from a solid piece of aluminum. This is more expensive manufacturing process than casting it in a mold, however it allows for the piece to be made to more exacting specifications.
B) It’s light because it’s made from 6061-T6 aluminum alloy. This alloy is one of the strongest kinds of aluminum available. It is a material used quite a bit in applications where the part must be very light but still very strong.
C) This type of material is also very resistant to corrosion and does well in a vacuum environment.
D) The gold color comes from a process call anodizing. This makes the piece further resistant to corrosion, by adding a thin protective coating to it. Who ever made this pin wanted to make sure it would last in a harsh environment.
The educator continues by turning the page to another drawing.
Above is first technical sub-assembly drawing for the aluminum pin. An arrow marked “Closure Pin” points to the pin’s location in the drawing. This drawing shows a pull pin assembly. We still don’t know much about what this piece did. The educator then draws the attention of the students to the second assembly drawing.
The educator explains that this closure pin was designed and built by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for use in the Apollo missions to the moon. Designed in 1966, this pin had a more earthbound purpose. After the Apollo astronauts went all the way to the Moon and back to Earth (a journey of about half a million miles) the Apollo spacecraft splashed down into the ocean with the astronauts inside. The spacecraft was designed to release inflatable tubes to float, but in the event that it sank, the astronauts definitely needed life preservers.
The educator points to the above drawing and tells the students that it is a folded up astronaut life preserver. When the astronauts yanked on the pull-tab, the pin unlocked the life vest’s protective covering. The other half the pull system opened a high pressure CO2 cartridge that immediately inflated the vest with carbon dioxide. Similar C02 cartridges are used in toy rockets and toy derby cars. The group turns the page to examine the next drawing.
This drawing is of an unfolded and un-inflated air bladder from the Apollo life vest. The educator and students can discuss;
A) How the vest maybe looks a little like the life preservers found on boats, but not really. Was this meant to go around the back of a person’s neck? The curve of the vest is a lot less than what we normally see in life preservers which go around the neck.
B) The knot and string system worked to release the life vest from its protective covering,
Next, the educator pulls out a replica of the life vest. She points out that there are not one, but two inflatable life vests within it.
The vest is unfolded and the function of the release pin is demonstrated.
The shape of the life vest is discussed again.
A) How was it worn?
B) To make it float, why was a CO2 inflation system used instead of foam rubber?
C) Why are two inflatable air bladders better than a single air bladder?
Finally, the educator turns the page to a vintage photograph of Apollo astronauts in their inflatable raft after splashdown in the ocean.
The group can see how the inflatables of the life vest were positioned underneath the Astronaut’s arms. The group discusses:
A) How the design of the life preserver makes it effective.
B) Why, in general, do we not use life preservers of this design more often.
C) Why do the Astronauts have bio suits on.
D) Why it was important to make something as simple as the release pin so strong and corrosion resistant.
The educator concludes this story and begins another example from the kit or moves on to other engineering curriculum. Beginning with a simple and mysterious piece to tell a story of innovation and history provides an inspirational moment for student/learners.
This example is meant to provide a rough idea of how the Mobile Education Kit could work. Stories in the production version of the kit would be constructed by curriculum experts and vetted by engineers. The history of American engineering and ingenuity can be used to foster the next generation of scientists/engineers as well as cultivate the general public’s appreciation of science and engineering.