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Students Experience FutureMaker Lab

On Tuesday, May 7, students in grades 8, 9, and 10 experienced the FutureMaker Mobile Lab. What is the FutureMaker Mobile Lab you ask? The FutureMaker Mobile Learning Lab consists of a 40-foot trailer that travels throughout the state of Kansas. WSU Tech and Goodwill Industries of Kansas, Inc. worked together to develop the FutureMaker Mobile Learning Lab to allow middle/high students and adult learners alike to have the opportunity to experience the thrill of hands-on, interactive learning in “high-demand technical fields” as identified by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The goal of this mobile lab is to educate Kansans by bringing these in-demand careers to their doorsteps through the use of technology. 

SFCHS students spent time in the trailer experiencing actual and virtual tools that are used in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers identified as high-demand throughout Kansas and the United States. The tudents participated in a variety of interactive activities focusing on high-demand STEM career fields. Students used equipment such as a virtual welder to simulate metal repairs/fabrication, a virtual painter to get a sense for aviation/automotive commercial coatings, and actual tools used in the fabrication of aircraft.

The high school library was also used as a learning area. The mobile lab carries a set of zSpace 3D computers which provided students a virtual learning environment in which to do experiments and challenges. These computer stations contain programs related to various science subjects which allowed students to virtually dissect, wire, build and explore STEM topics in immersive 3D. The lab seemed to capture the interest of all participants through exploration of STEM education using virtual reality, information technology and hands-on experiences and challenges.

The Mobile Learning Lab introduced students to selected high-demand career paths that they may not be aware of, or considered an option for further study. These paths included topics in:

Aerospace Coatings and Paint Technology:
Using a virtual spray-gun painting device, students will experience in 3D what it might be like to paint objects such as a car door or engine cowling.  Once finished, each student can see areas where paint was too thin, too thick, or coated well.  Instructors will then assist students in making the connections between cost and quality.

Industrial Automation and Robotics:
Using small mobile robots that respond to specific colors in combinations, students will be asked to “program” a course that will successfully guide each robot to a destination.  This fun demonstration offers students a unique introduction into computer programming as a means step in the process of automating tasks, such as self-driving cars.  Instructors will offer a look into the future of industrial automation, and career paths in this growing field of study.

Industrial Manufacturing and Welding:
Utilizing a virtual reality welding system, students will try their hand at steel welding in a virtual helmet which simulates the real thing in surprising fashion.  This will offer students a look into the balance of art and science that skilled welding requires.  Instructors will aid in making the connection between careers, and the importance of welded metal joints in manufactured everyday use products.

The exploration of technical careers will ultimately lead more Kansans into career pathways such as aviation, advanced manufacturing and health sciences.

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St. Francis 100 College Street St. Francis, KS  67756

Superintendent's Office: 785-332-8182 High School Office: 785-332-8153 Elementary Office: 785-332-8143

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