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Aligning cognitive processes with the design process in a University-based digital fabrication laboratory (Ub-Fablab)

Abstract : The concept of Digital Fabrication Laboratories (Fablabs), initially an industrial prototyping platform for local entrepreneurships is rapidly finding its way into the education arena and used as a platform for learning and innovation. With the current impact of digital technology on the societies, there are calls from organizations like the National Research Council (NRC) for the education sector to cater for the so-called 21st Century Skills, while the industrial sector to rethink design and production in order to cater for sustainability (inclusive of eco-design and circular economy) and to embrace the latest technologies in preparation for the Industries 4.0. Fablab platforms established in universities (Ub-Fablabs) could therefore play a vital role as a ‘support platform’ to meet these demands.Since there has been very little or no research into the capacities of Ub-Fablabs to meet these demands, this research took a two-fold approach toi) investigate and align cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills (inclusive of mechanical, electrical and embedded software operational skills) embedded in the design process in Ub-Fablabs.ii) assess the capacity of Ub-Fablabs to prepare citizens for the future design and production industries.In part 1 of the research, the researcher closely observed the design and production of a rock milling machine (RMM) where utilisation of a range of wood, stone and synthetic materials technologies were displayed. The design and production activities were recorded using field notes, video-recording and still photography. To keep trace of the design and production activities, an iterative design process model, the ‘Nawita Design Process Model (NDPM) was developed and utilised. Data was analysed using an adapted protocol analysis and results were graphed using pie and bubble-chart graphing. Results showed that materialising the creative ideas incubated in stage 1 of the NDPM unleashed a stunning peak of cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills in stages 2, 3 and 4 of NDPM. These processes and skills are undoubtedly constituted of the 21st Century Skills.In part 2 of the research, an adapted online content analysis was used to collect data from 90% of the Ub-Fablabs worldwide. An Ub-Fablab Capacity Indicator Scale (Ub-Fablab CIS) was developed and used to score on four potential aspects of Ub-Fablab if it has to be used as a support platform to incubate proactive minds for the future integration of design and production industries. These components are i) Technological infrastructure; ii) Constructionist pedagogical approach; iii) Collaboration through digital networking and iv) sustainability (inclusive of eco-design and circular economy). Results revealed that all Ub-Fablabs have a strong stand in providing technological infrastructures and a strong constructionist pedagogical approach, but may need to improve on its capacity for collaboration through networking and catering for sustainability.The findings of this research provides a strong standing for Ub-Fablabs to be utilised to augment efforts to equip citizens with 21st Century skills and incubate proactive minds for the future integration of design and production industries
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Vomaranda Joy Botleng. Aligning cognitive processes with the design process in a University-based digital fabrication laboratory (Ub-Fablab). Mechanics [physics]. Université de Bordeaux, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018BORD0066⟩. ⟨tel-02000670⟩

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