One of the core objectives of STEMbassadors is to develop new and improved technologies aimed at expanding accessibility to younger learners and those who would otherwise be intimidated by the operation of powerful creative tools like CNC routers and C02 laser cutters/engravers. Below is a collection of some of our work in this area.
The Spark Cart
The spark cart is our flagship technology package which we have donated to over 20 educators in our county, giving hundreds of students access to cutting edge technology and curriculum. The Spark Cart (the first version at least) consists of an X-carve CNC router, Acer laptop sponsored by MJP computers, a vacuum dust collector, and curriculum and technical support from the STEMbassadors themselves. Since 2017, the Spark Cart has proved to be a powerful tool in the hands of educators, empowering them and their students to engage in creative learning.
Generation 1 - 2017
As previously mentioned. The very first Spark Carts included a CNC router, laptop, vacuum dust collection, and technical support from the STEMbassadors. Besides this, we also supplied every cart with a basic set of router bits, the tools required to change them, and a basic package of materials. This enabled educators and students entering at any skill level the opportunity to interact with the machine and begin to explore what it could be used to make.
Generation 2 - 2019
The second generation of spark carts marks a big step forward towards the goal of accessibility. The most significant modification made was the introduction of a full machine enclosure. Made out of 1/8 inch thick aluminum panels, the machine enclosure shields the user and surrounding classroom environment from noise, dust, and the danger of the spinning router bit. In addition to those tangible benefits the simple, boxy look makes the machine much more approachable. Made possible in collaboration with Sessa manufacturing.
Generation 3 (prototype) - 2021
The latest development of SPARK cart technology explores alternative machine options integrated directly into the enclosure. In the last generation the X-Carve CNC the machine was simply placed into the enclosure unit. This prototype generation contains a Work Bee CNC router mounted firmly to the enclosure by four L shaped brackets (one per corner). This machine is several times more powerful than the X-Carve and can operate significantly faster. The work area is expanded from 12 by 12 inches to 12 by 22. The enclosure also includes a simple input panel to the side for power, control (usb), and router power. The door is now supported by gas pistons for improved safety.