I've been watching the video embedded below - sort of obsessively. The background music is nice to listen to, but I'm fascinated by this machine - so much so, that I've been sharing this video with my students and my colleagues. The video shows a working prototype of a Contour Crafting machine. The name doesn't provide much help trying to figure out what this thing does. Is it a fancy pair of scissors? Or maybe a laser-assisted plastic surgery machine? No neither.
Contour Crafting, developed by Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California, is a layered fabrication technology that could automate the construction of whole structures and sub-components. Imagine in the near future building a single house or a colony of houses (see video below) in just a fraction (1/200th) of the time that it takes using conventional techniques. The implications for disaster recover [think hurricane Katrina] and low-income housing are mind-blowing.
You might ask - what does this have to do with teaching and learning? It's pretty simple. When I show this video and this technology to my students (CADD and Engineering) it engages them and sparks their imagination. So much so, that I have to cut the discussion short so that we don't use up all the class time talking about this and nothing else. What does this do for me? Well besides the excitement and engagement that it generates, it gives me an opportunity to introduce important topics, such as the social impacts/benefits of technology, community service, service learning, poverty and two of my favorites topics - creativity and innovation.
Proposed Colony Building