UCL Changemakers


Enabling remote and independent learning in the workshop environment

Through this ChangeMakers project, a remote learning course was conducted and a process guide was developed on robotic 3D printing of ceramics.

14 Sept 2021 

Case study by: Pradeep Devadass, B-made (Bartlett Manufacturing and Design Exchange).

What did you do/what happened?

Ten students participated in the three day remote online course to design and create ceramic prototypes using robotic 3D printing process. Parameters, potentials and limitations of the process are documented as a guide substantiated through experiments. The process guide was developed by the student collaborators from the school of architecture and was steered by a team of supervisors who specialize in ceramic printing and robotic manufacturing.

Why was this project important? How would it improve the learning experience of students?

In architecture, making is an essential skill that students develop typically though tactile, tacit, and sensory means. B-made is responsible for providing this manufacturing-based education in a design fuelled context to the students of BSA (Bartlett School of Architecture). During the pandemic, B-made workshops and labs have been underutilised due to the lockdowns and restricted access. Through the ‘Remote Robotics Workshop’ course, a new learning approach has been established at the B-made Robotics Lab which allows the students to learn from their home. Although the learning is completely online, the course demonstrated an effective learning method through to continuous feedback from tutors via live tutorials and live broadcasting of the production process using video conferencing platforms. The course was reviewed through a focus group by two Student Reviewers and received very positive feedback. The course has created interest at the Bartlett in ceramic research.
A new clay extruder was recently purchased and integrated at the B-made robotics lab to enable research of ceramics material in the context of architecture. The challenge with any new tool is finding the optimum working parameters, realizing the potentials and limitations. The student collaborators conducted various experiments and created a case study which informs the suitable configurations of the tool for various design prototypes. The case study is thoroughly documented which serves as a guide for futures students, staff and other faculty members intending to utilize ceramic 3D printing approach using robots. The guide also explains how to assemble the extruder, integrate with the robot and how to configure based on the design. This document is currently used by various bachelors, masters and PhD students exploring ceramic 3D printing at the Bartlett. The document is also included as part of the B-made optional robotics training on Moodle.

What was your role?

My role include securing the ChangeMakers project funding, designing the project, being a tutor in organizing and teaching the remote learning course, and being a supervisor for the process guide created by the student collaborators.

What roles did other team members play? And how did staff and students work together on the project?

Other tutors for the workshop include Ben Lee, Sienna Griffin-Shaw, Georgios Drakontaeidis. The tutors supported in organizing and teaching the course. Ben Lee and Sienna Griffin-Shaw played a vital role in recruitment of student collaborators and purchasing of material for course and research.

Two student collaborators, Finn Shi and James Robinson were recruited as part of the ChangeMakers project. They were responsible for developing the process guide document. The students were required to work with staff continuously and closely during the initial days as this required manufacturing knowledge of robotics and understanding the material behaviour, following which the collaborators mostly worked independently in conducting and documenting the experiments.

What was involved in terms of approach, logistics, time or resources?

The initial ideation for the project was developed during the ChangeMakers application in November. Due to the lockdown, inability to access the lab/resources and time delay in student recruitment, the project began in the spring term. The ‘remote online course’ was conducted from the 28th to the 30th of April 2021. The student collaborators worked part-time together from the 3rd to the 31st of May 2021 comprising a total of 40 hours, conducting, documenting experiments and creating the process guide. The students were given complete freedom, flexible working hours due to their prior study commitments and were allowed to work independently except while accessing the lab due to workshop safety regulations. The setup of the remote learning platform which include cameras, broadcasting kit, and the live but off-site nature of the workshop enabled a higher capacity of students to attend, design and develop their projects and ideas collaboratively which wouldn’t have been achievable at the workshop even during regular working conditions. This collaborative working nature allowed students from various programmes and different years to share their knowledge and experience which does not happen otherwise.

What difference has this made to staff or students?

B-made offers advanced manufacturing technologies and specialist knowledge such as in robotics which the students have not been able to utilize due to remote working. In particular, international students have been severely affected due to travel restrictions. The remote robotic workshop has served as a bridge in connecting them to the workshop environment. The challenge of recollecting various technical knowledge of robotic processes is cumbersome. The process guide allows the users at the B-made to reference, learn and access knowledge easily and at any time. This also reduces tutors transferring repetitive information and enabling more time to focus on project specific questions from the students.

The project instilled confidence and provoked staff research ideas in the same topic which led to the successful application at Architectural Research Fund. It has open other areas of 3D printing process and materials.

What are your plans for the future?

The remote online course has proved to be useful in scaling up the number of the participants learning remotely and still effective especially in circumstances where access to workshop environments has been non-existent or limited. This will be enacted through staff and student led-research encapsulated into annual short courses that aim to open the knowledge to a global community of students and professionals.

Through the practice of creating this process guide, the project has set precedence for documenting future processes developed at B-made. The document has enabled independent learning which the student can access easily and at any time.