At MIT, I was a Pappalardo Undergraduate Apprentice for two years for 2.007: Design & Manufacturing I. The Pappalardo Apprentice program is designed to further develop fabrication skills and provide mentor training and opportunities for peer-to-peer mentoring. The objective is to push the boundaries of the lab experience, further developing skills and the Pappalardo lab as one of the safest, most productive, positive, and creative labs on campus. The program has two primary areas of emphasis:
1. Peer mentoring. I serve as an undergraduate assistant for 2.007. I attend a regularly scheduled three-hour 2.007 lab section and an additional three-hour lab block to assist 2.007 students with their lab work, including machining, hand-tool use, materials and supplies assistance, brainstorming, and general peer-to-peer support.
2. Skill development. We participate in a series of clinics to refresh and further our hands-on skills, including milling, turning, laser cutting, water-jetting, and 3D printing. Junior apprentices fabricate a Stirling engine.
I worked to fabricate this engine over the entirety of the semester for an average of six hours every week. Each of the junior apprentices are given a kit of materials for the engine, but we are allowed to be as creative with the engine design as we desire. Most of the parts for the engine were made on the mill, except for the flywheel and hex shaft. Machining the parts for the engine allowed me to become much more comfortable with conversational programming and machining different metals. The flywheel was cast for us, but we got to practice machining and fixturing cast parts in a lathe.
Most of the apprentices are the most creative in the design of the base for the engine. I chose to make my base out of a slab of red oak with a live edge. I chose to use wood for two reasons: I had never really worked with wood before and I liked the contrast between the machined engine and natural wood. I started with just a log of wood and ended with a finished slab through which I got to practice using wood shop tools, understand the properties of wood, and learn about finishing wood.
This was an individual project, though I got tons of help from other the undergraduate apprentices and Pappalardo shop staff.