Is it possible to use a printer for printing an aircraft part, a model of the Eiffel tower or mom's favorite vase? As far as yesterday, it sounded like ficiton, a scene from another science fiction movie about distant future. Today, any schoolboy can do it. Dmitry Abazin, the head of the regional Association of youth innovation creativity center (YICC) in the Krasnoyarsk region, speaks on prospectives for development of technical labs for children.
Dmitry, are you sure any schoolboy can construct, say, a robot?
Absolutely positive! But you need to understand that this is a long process. First, you need to learn 3D graphics on the easiest details. Then you need to master the equipment that allows modeling. Only after that, we start to introduce a child to a soldering station and teach them to understand circuits. Laboratories with modern digital equipment, such as YICC centers, allow to implement various tasks of processing technology. I would emphasize the 'technology' term. This includes both parts manufacturing process and technology operations, such as programming and 3D modeling. YICC grants the freedom to create and to experiment. While studing the equipment, children begin solving technological problems; freedom of creativity and the exchange of ideas help developing innovations and creating new solutions.
Why YICC? How do students benefit from visiting such labs?
Our main goal is to spike the youth's interest in new knowledge and modern technology. We create an innovative environment that allows cultivating personnel for technological industries, to pave the way for new promising projects, including those who are going to become residents of our business incubator.
Dmitry, you are the head of the regional YICC Association. How has it all begun?
Initially, the idea of creating technical laboratories for school students has received support with the Krasnoyarsk regional innovative-technological business-incubator (KRITBI). It took several months to prepare the opening of the first youth innovation creativity center. The experts of the business incubator's prototyping center ran tours for teachers and students of Krasnoyarsk schools, showed them the equipment and its capabilities. The experience was a success. YICC line has grown rapidly in the region.
I would note that all the centers are aimed not only at students of educational institutions, where they are located. A student of any school or college may study their congenial topics at YICC. This is mandatory for all the centers.
What are the functions of the Association?
When opening the first lab, the KRITBI's experts compiled a curriculum for high scool students to teach them principles of 3D scanners, 3D printers, metal-cutting machines and laser engravers. They also take an introductory course on the SolidWorks basics, the graphic applications that allows developing products of any complexity and purpose.
All YICC centers dispose of approximately the same set of equipment, but they don't have a consistent curriculum. That's why, teachers have to take care for shaping the educational approach. The Association is a tool for free exchange of experience and knowledge. We may initiate various activities and arrange educational process for teachers. Besides, it is much more convenient to to broadcast information to the region using such associations at the Federal level.
Are YICC centers only for school students?
It all depends on the institutions that host the Centers. If a YICC is located in a secondary school, their primary audience would be school students. For older youth (undergraduates, postgraduates and young inventors), there is Center for Technical Design; other YICC centers, such as Hangar FabLab, whose format allows young innovators making small prototypes, are also open for older school students and undergraduates. Morevoer, Hangar's experts provide consulting services in the field of developing entrepreneurial skills.
Dmitry, what would you say about YICC prospects in Krasnoyarsk region?
Currently, Government of Krasnoyarsk region and us co-operate on developing technical creativity course for gifted children. In the future, we plan to involve them in engineering applications. Federal government authorities, Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises in Science and Technology are both very much active in supporting us. Major companies that are interested in highly qualified specialists have been showing an increasing attention to engineering education prospects.
Therefore, development has become the basis vector for us.
Is it timely to discuss your work's results so far?
Of course, we have much to be proud of. Children regularly participate in Federal contests and win prizes. The fact that the experts have highly evaluated the guys learning at YICC centers justify our efforts.
The idea of "fabrication laboratories" was born at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is one of the leaders in the field of technical education in the world. Funded originally as a University project, due to the principles of openness and accessibility, the fab lab has evolved into a global network of digital production laboratories around the world. Today FabLabs exist in dozens of countries. In Russia, FabLabs are represented by YICC centers.
The first YICC in Krasnoyarsk was opened in May 2012 at the Krasnoyarsk Regional Innovation and Technology Business Incubator (KRITBI).
In the spring of 2013, regional educational institutions participated in a competition resulting in winning the right to the opening intra muros laboratories by the Krasnoyarsk Universe school No 1, Center for Technical Design No. 13, Sosnovoborsk Mechanical College and Zheleznogorsk Young Engineers Station.
To date, a YICC Association of 8 centers have been formed. The business incubator oversees 5 labs. Co-funded by the Russian Federation's Ministry of Economic Development, Hangar FabLab project has been launched with YICC, and the Composite YICC has been funded at SibSAU's Aerospace school. THEMSELVES prototyping lab was founded on the basis of Krasnoyarsk regional Palace of Young pioneers and schoolchildren in 2013, co-funded by the regional Ministry of Education and Science and RUSAL company. Other 6 centers are getting ready to join the Association; those are active laboratories in Achinsk and Norilsk, as well as 4 new centers to be open by the end of 2015.
More than 4,500 children and students have attended YICC centers for years 2014 and 2015. About 400 children regularly attend the centers, 315 projects have been designed, 48 of them have a higher level of technical complexity.