Recently the ABC’s Four Corners aired a program (Future Proof) which ponders the question of how best to prepare the coming generations for jobs that don’t yet exist in a future we can’t yet imagine. Featured on the program was the Australian Science and Mathematics School where the students are learning in a very different way to what most would recognise as a school environment. In an open, collaborative environment without walls, teacher desks or school bells, they’re learning how to learn, how to build and how to design to solve problems with whatever technology is available. This approach to learning is closely akin to the type of diy and collaborative learning fostered by makerspaces which are beginning to emerge in Victorian schools. With a view to incorporating this approach into pre-service teacher training, the School of Education have been in contact with us to help facilitate knowledge gathering in this area. As a result we recently visited Melbourne City Council’s Library at the Dock makerspace, and RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct to learn more about the maker movement and maker spaces, the process and applications of 3d printing, and to familiarise ourselves with RMIT’s facilities.
Our first excursion took us to the end of the 48 tram line and the brand new facility that is the Library at the Dock. Do not be fooled by old fashioned notions of what a library is, this is no dusty quiet space! On the 2nd floor we found the makerspace which provides open public access to graphics and game building software, arduinos and other basic electronics components, craft components, rehearsal and recording studios and 3d printers. The library supports the use of this facility with a number of events including free beginners classes in a range of skills, skills-based collaboration workshops, and open studio time for people to experiment, collaborate and create as they wish. If you’re in need of downtime or retro inspiration, there’s an arcade game with which you can challenge your competitor to an old school game of tetris.
For our second excursion, Milan Brandt, Director of RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct (AMP) kindly showed us around the facility in building 55.
What got my attention as I exited the lifts onto the 2nd floor of the AMP lab, was not the collection of mysterious noisy machines as encountered downstairs, or even the recumbent alien lounging in the display case, but somewhat unexpectedly, the Atomic era styling – the bright yellow floor, the exposed ducts and pipes, the curved wood panelling on the distinctly Jetsonish lab pods. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a flying car zoom past. While they’re not currently in the business of producing flying cars, Milan and the folks at AMP have an impressive number of aero engine components lying about.
One of the great advantages of additive manufacturing (known to a lay person like myself, as 3d printing) is the ability to make objects significantly lighter with no loss of strength. As 3d print manufacturing is currently too slow to be viable for large production runs which can still be produced more cheaply by traditional diecasting methods, the greatest interest is coming from industries that require high end, small production runs or bespoke manufacturing where weight of materials is a significant consideration. These include uses such aeronautical parts, medical implants, spectrometer parts, and working models. Due to the relative portability of a 3d printer and materials, there is also some application for the likes of in-the-field army equipment maintenance and repair.
Check out this video for a taste of the tour.
Of particular interest to our Education colleagues perhaps, is the long line of 3d printers dedicated for student use. At least two days a week the facility is made available for any RMIT student who wants to use the printers. The AMP is keen to build collaborations across the RMIT community, so get in touch with them if you’re interested to learn more.
Library at the Dock images by Alistair Roche (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons