Toy-like plastic parts that are traditionally used in engineering classes may be a great way to get students started. But Mark Newby believes that educators across America should also provide their students with hands-on experience with components that are similar to those used in the lab or industry. So he co-founded MA-based Gears Educational Systems, a supplier of scaled parts and design kits to high school and college classes.
"Our competitive advantage is design," says Newby, now the director of operations at Gears. "As more manufacturing is going overseas, we hope Gears' products will stimulate students and make them consider engineering as a career."
The company not only provides hardware, but also CAD software for class projects. The GEARS-IDS (http://rbi.imsca/4387-535) kit, for example, includes a free trial copy of SolidWorks' 3D mechanical design software in addition to heavy-duty aluminum structured components, pneumatics, sprockets, chain, gears, precision-machined wheels and drive components, tires, battery, charger, electronics and controls, as well as the Pittman 9000 gearhead motors from Penn Engineering.
Since the end of 2002, Gears has purchased close to 900 units from Penn Engineering, says Marketing and Sales Manager John Wolfe. His company has customized most Pittman motors for the educational purposes—despite the order quantity—Wolfe adds. The latest offerings from Gears and Penn Engineering include specific part links. Students and educators can click on any Pittman motor listed on the Gears' website to more easily learn about the product specifications, Wolfe says.
Real Challenge: The tractor system
is one of the designs by students at Dunwoody College of Technology in
Minneapolis using the GEARS-IDS kit, which includes real components and