As part of Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE) 2019 Senior Design program, a design team has worked with Old World Wisconsin (OWW) — a museum in Waukesha County — to incorporate STEM education into their historical platform. This involved introducing methods to teach STEM concepts to visitors, most of which are school children in the K-12 system. Background research on current Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) methods for K-12 audiences show that there is an overall lack of STEM introduction for students in the United States, and as such, students in the U.S. fail to meet averages for international testing standards for STEM concepts. Research shows that young students require hands on programs in which they can form hypotheses, test hypotheses, and question how these concepts can be applied to real life scenarios.
The physical designs in this project consist of stations which relate to OWW’s current exhibits, and introduce statics and dynamics concepts, such as the concepts of mechanical advantage. These concepts are introduced through physical mechanisms that visitors to OWW can interact with in a safe manner, without the need of close supervision. With the guidance of facilitators, school children on field trips will learn mechanics concepts in a tactile and visual manner while being taught key points by the facilitator.
The physical designs in this project exist in OWW’s Bicycle Shop, Peterson Wagon Shop, and Loomer Barn. The bicycle shop station consists of a sprocket and chain setup in which visitors can drive a sprocket using a handle, to discover how gear ratios can affect output speeds and torque for a given input speed and torque. The station in the wagon shop has a table with multiple tracks on which a scale wheel can be rolled, to show the relationships between translational and rotational dynamics. In the Loomer Barn, there is a lever station which shows the concepts of moments and moment arms, as well as mechanical advantage, which visitors can solve problems with to understand the relationship between moment arms, and the applied forces required to balance a lever. Also in the barn, a pulley station explores the use of multiple pulleys to make lifting require less force, while increasing the required pulling distances. Each station is accompanied by worksheets that can be distributed to teachers and other visitors via e-mail, which will serve as further supplementary learning tools to enhance visitors’ understanding of the subject material. Design specifications are defined for the size, weight, and types of components to be allowed in the wagon and sprocket modules. These design specifications are met by the finalized designs.
The separate stations have undergone some revision over time through different design prototype phases. In the prototype phases, 3D printing was the main means of design, but since these devices are meant to be large and sturdy to offer permanent visual cues to young students, these prototypes were not only temporary solutions, but impossible to 3D print or manufacture within a reasonable cost and time frame. Because of this, the use of externally sourced parts from McMaster-Carr and Menards was decided upon to fulfill the goals of this project.
This project was feasible in that it was accomplished by meeting standards related to the background research on STEM education, as well as falling within the realm of historical relevance to OWW’s exhibits. The project was assembled and distributed to OWW within the desired time-frame of both MSOE, and OWW.