Wisdom Gained: A Good Engineer Should Have Artisan Spirit

Published in MIT News on March 27, 2017, by Camilla Brinkman, Edgerton Center

In a three-day workshop, 60 Beijing high school students build underwater remotely operated vehicles and launch them in the Zesiger pool.

In February, the Edgerton Center hosted 60 10th-grade students from the Beijing Chenjinglun School in Beijing, China, for a workshop on underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). The visit was organized by Pei Zhang, executive director of the U.S. China Scitech Education Promotion Association, and led by Edgerton Center instructors Ed Moriarty and Cheetiri Smith, with the assistance of many volunteers and translators.

Three days to build a working ROV 

With a short deadline to come up with a functional ROV, students had to work fast. They split into 10 groups with each group specializing in the fabrication of common ROV components, such as controllers, wiring harnesses, thruster assemblies, and tethers. The same task was performed by the same group throughout the day so less time was required to build each subsequent part and the quality improved after the completion of the previous part.

In this way, the students learned concepts related to mass manufacturing, including the learning curve, the value of interchangeable parts, and the importance of quality control. As well, the students had a sense of interdependency; every component of the ROV was mission critical, so if one part failed, the entire ROV would fail...

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