The skills listed above, Solidworks, Laser Fabrication, and 3-D printing, are high-demand skills immediately contributing to the student’s employability. In addition, because the senior design project in engineering almost always contains a fabrication component, the FIT student employee becomes a very valuable member of a senior project group and immediately applies their skills to the completion of the senior project.
Student will learn new skills and develop skills introduced in the freshman year in solid modeling in Solidworks. While the freshman year introduces students to this program, fabrication of engineering materials requires advanced to expert level skills. Students use Solidworks to model and fabricate materials used in engineering classes such as Mecharonics, Mechanical Vibrations, Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, etc. The engineering program uses three methods to fabricate engineering materials, a 3D printer located in the engineering building, a 2-D laser cutter capable of cutting acrylic, and manual fabrication using school machine tools. Each of these fabrication methods begins with solid modeling the part in Solidworks.
In all three years, the FIT student employee is also asked to fabricate parts manually using the department’s machine tools. The FIT student employee is trained to use all of these tools and is mentored by laboratory faculty in producing high-quality parts.
Utilizing the student’s expertise in Solidworks, students are trusted to design and fabricate new components used in engineering courses. For example, the mechatronics course begins by issuing each student group a base robot, used as a starting point for the student’s own custom design. A prior FIT student employee designed the starter robot in Solidworks and fabricated seven copies to be distributed to student groups. This required advanced skills in Solidworks, plus experience in laser fabrication of acrylic parts. Other examples are vibrating mechanisms used in the mechanical vibrations course and components used in heat transfer and fluid mechanic labs.
Three-dimensional printing using the department’s in-house 3-D printer requires advanced Solidworks skills, as well as experience with the 3-D printing equipment. Frequently, parts that are relatively easy to build in Solidworks are impossible to fabricate on the 3-D printer due to internal concavities or sharp angles. The FIT student employee gains experience in operating and maintaining the 3-D printer, as well as developing skills in modeling parts that can be readily fabricated using the printer. Three-dimensional printed parts are most often used as components in senior level design projects, thus the FIT student employee acts as a consultant to assist peers in fabricating parts using the 3-D printer.