Computer-Aided Design of Mechanical Automata: Engineering Education For Children
With decreasing numbers of engineersgraduating from undergraduate institutions in the United States, the importanceof developing children’s interests in engineering is increasingly apparent. Inthis paper we discuss an approach to engineering education based upon thedesign of mechanical toys and automata. In implementing this approach we havecreated a software system, Machine Shop, for the design of automata; MachineShop facilitates the design of mechanical elements, and their fabrication inwood or plastic on a desktop laser cutter. In this paper, we describe both oursoftware and its place in a larger portrait of engineering education. We alsopresent a case study highlighting the design process of one ten year oldstudent as he designed and constructed his first mechanical automaton, and drawsome general observations from our ongoing testing with children in elementaryand middle schools.