Spark Academy, a high school located on the campus of Manchester Community College (MCC), was recently visited by Dean Kamen, Governor Sununu, education commissioner Frank Edelblut, and CCSNH chancellor Dr. Mark Rubinstein and others to celebrate the production of the first 200 Experiential Robotics Platform (XRP) robots to be distributed to New Hampshire classrooms. Spark Academy’s student-led, 24-printer 3D print farm produced them.
The XRP initiative is an effort to provide low-cost robotics kits to every classroom that wants them.
Spark Academy knows firsthand how beneficial robotics programs are for kids, teaching them problem solving, teamwork, and perseverance along with building, coding, and the engineering design process. Every Spark student takes an Introduction to Robotics class.
Creating the 3D print farm in the school setting drew 22 students to volunteer their time to help with the XRP production, giving them a hands on experience of the manufacturing process.
Spark Academy got involved with the XRP Robot initiative last year, when a group of their Fourth-Year students on the Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) pathway were approached by Dan Larochelle, AMT Dept Chair at MCC and a founder and technology consultant for Spark. He created the opportunity for the students to do a capstone senior project, testing the XRP prototype in a Spark/DEKA/WPI/MCC partnership. The Spark students also performed assembly, kitting, and inspection, and soldered wiring harnesses by hand so that 600 of these prototypes could be sent to the FIRST Global Conference in Geneva for distribution around the world.
“That capstone experience for our students and the setup of our 3D Print Farm to produce these 200 finished kits is just the start,” said John Tuttle, the director of Spark. “We have developed a two-part Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) with the print farm, focusing on the manufacturing process.” There are currently six students on the AMT track signed up for this ELO. Dan Larochelle added, “Spark Academy will continue to produce XRP kits and other projects in partnership with DEKA. In fact, we’re hoping that the next XRP projects will come from the minds of Spark students!”