On October 2, 2015, forty one FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) robotics students from six Carlsbad Unified schools participated in the second educational enrichment workshop in a multi-part workshop series sponsored and provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc., in partnership with the Carlsbad Educational Foundation. In this second workshop, which focused on Project Management (PM) and Manufacturing, students learned about the stages of New Product Introduction (NPI), the process by which new products start as an idea and are transferred from research & development into manufacturing and production. Students were also introduced to the role of Project Manager, who tracks the progress of each stage of product development to ensure the Project is on schedule for a product’s launch date.
The topics of NPI and PM were further elaborated through speaker presentations by a Thermo Fisher Product Manager and Program Manager and through an interactive demonstration using students, who each held a prop and a placard representing each stage of NPI. Afterwards, the students broke into small group discussions which were led by Thermo Fisher Scientific employees who volunteered their time to discuss in more detail what Project Management is and its significance in the workplace. The volunteers first introduced themselves, their role in the company and their education background to help the students understand how their education ties with their current position.
During the small group sessions, the Thermo Fisher employees challenged the students to build a free-standing building with tape and a certain number of straws within a five-minute timeframe. One student was selected whose job was to motivate the group to complete the challenge on time. The employees changed the challenge conditions by taking away a percentage of straws, and at the two-minute mark, the employees changed the challenge again by informing the students that they only had one more minute to complete the building. Through this mini teamwork challenge, the students were able to conceptualize the different aspects of the Project Management process, which were symbolized by the different elements of the teamwork challenge: creating the straw building (Project), the group of students (the PM team), the selected student (Project Manager), the straws (resources which became limited) and a time reduction (a changing deadline). More importantly, the students were exposed to a real-world situation where they had to learn to adapt to changing conditions in order to complete the challenge on time while producing a quality product. After the teamwork challenge, a lively discussion about PM between the Themo Fisher Scientific employees and the students electrified the room. As a result of these interactions, the FLL students gained a better understanding of the relevance of PM and how it can be applied both in their student coursework and in their completion of the FLL Challenge, where they must conduct a Research Project and create and program an autonomous LEGO® Mindstorms® robot to complete missions on a playing field, all within a deadline in order to be ready for a FLL tournament.
The workshop event was very timely as it took place on Manufacturing Day℠, which was celebrated across the nation on October 2 in an effort to inspire the next generation of manufacturers by exposing youth to the environment of modern manufacturing. After the small group breakout sessions, the students were treated to a 40-minute tour of the manufacturing and distribution facilities of Thermo Fisher Scientific. During this tour, employees discussed the process of how products are organized, packaged and prepared for shipment to customers and showed examples of high throughput automation devices.
It was definitely an exciting day for both the FLL robotics students and the Thermo Fisher Scientific employees! There was an abundance of smiles, looks of amazement and sounds of “oohs” and “ahhs” during the manufacturing and distribution tour as the robotics teams saw mechanical parts and robotic devices come to life. Theo Nakfoor, an Aviara Oaks Middle School FLL robotics student, enthusiastically summed up the tour: “Seeing the automated robots on the Thermo Fisher manufacturing tour was amazing!” Additionally, the students’ eagerness in the topic was apparent in “aha” moments during the dynamic speaker presentations and small group sessions as they answered questions and made connections to what they were learning in the robotics program and in school.
The Carlsbad Educational Foundation along with the FLL robotics teams are truly grateful to Thermo Fisher Scientific and their employees for this truly special, hands-on opportunity for students to learn beyond the traditional classroom setting and to interface with industry experts in a professional environment. We are thankful Thermo Fisher for inspiring our next generation of problem solvers.