'The space is amazing.’
Opening doors to the 21st century
The Monash Tech School is yet to officially open but a few lucky students from nearby special needs schools recently sampled its 21st century education programs and equipment.
Ten students and two teachers from Ashwood School in Monash were among the wide-eyed visitors to pilot the Tech School’s learning programs and try out its high-tech equipment in preparation for the opening in term 3.
The group took part in the Superhumans program, where students design and build prototypes of devices that help disabled or elderly people. ‘The space is amazing,’ Ashwood School Assistant Principal Seth Willingham says. ‘[The students’] eyes really lit up when they walked in.’
And there’s plenty to take in when you walk through the doors. A 3-D printer, standing two metres tall, whirs away in a corner. An array of equipment such as a milling machine and laser cutter quickly burn, whittle and shape different materials.
Monash Tech School’s Technology Manager Matt Jarvis says this industry quality equipment was selected to give students a range of prototyping options.
The laser cutter can cut polystyrene foam and wood in a matter of seconds. The milling machine can carve intricate shapes into wax, for instance, to produce models in minutes.
Then there are the 3-D printers. They take hours or, in the case of the two-metre unit, overnight.
Part of the Superhumans program is to explore the different properties of materials with a special microscope and thermal cameras, and select the most appropriate for a particular use.
This specialised equipment is used alongside design thinking to solve problems. ‘This approach to learning is more suited to students today,’ Mr Willingham says.
In design thinking, students apply empathy by putting themselves in the shoes of those people they aim to help. Then they brainstorm, design and prototype — over and over.
Failure is encouraged and no idea is too weird or wild. Teachers from partner schools work with Tech School staff to guide students through the process.
‘This way, teachers get to know what possibilities are and what the students have the capability to do,’ Mr Willingham says.
Mr Jarvis says he breathed a sigh of relief when he watched the students instinctively take to the equipment. ‘They had a great time,’ he said. ‘They loved the thermal cameras.’
The Federation Training facility is the Monash Tech School’s temporary home.
In 2019, it will move to Monash University in Clayton.
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