13 November 2014

Novel concept for teaching, studying and research

With "Lernfabrik 4.X" (English: Learning factory 4.X), Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences has established a new education and research platform for students of production engineering.

The transfer of knowledge and state-of-the art technologies into teaching practice and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) demands new concepts in order to keep up with the rapid changes in social conditions. These new concepts ought to be profound from a didactic, learning psychology and information technology perspective. To meet these challenging requirements, the Institute of Materials and Processes of Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences created the "Lernfabrik 4.X", whose concept is being further developed jointly with the Institute for Information Management in Engineering (IMI) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Karlsruhe University of Education. The Lernfabrik 4.X is a platform for education and research. Its activities focus on subject-related, didactic issues and problems of knowledge transfer in the field of manufacturing engineering. Here, research is closely interwoven with education and makes a crucial contribution to the courses offered.

In order to ensure competitiveness, too many companies have focused on the technical and economical aspects of production. The learning and knowledge potential of humans is only slowly gaining attention. This is why Lernfabrik 4.X was created, where the focus is on human knowledge management and technology transfer.

The platform for education and research "Lernfabrik 4.X" provides training courses for smaller and medium-sized companies in the production industry as well as study courses for students of the universities involved. It was developed at the Institute of Materials and Processes (IMP) of Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences under  Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rüdiger Haas and offers the courses jointly with institutes of the Karlsruhe University of Education and the Institute for Information Management in Engineering (IMI) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), under the direction of Prof. Dr. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h. c. Jivka Ovtcharova. Special focus is given to changes in the context of production processes that can have a decisive influence on a company's profitability. Aside from optimization of the organization and lean production, the focus will include information and knowledge management processes as well as modern communication.

Course participants of Lernfabrik 4.X will have access to a well-equipped production engineering laboratory and the latest IT communication and visualization technologies: Applications for an extended and virtual reality are developed jointly by the cooperation partners and are empirically tested in a didactic context. "Learning in a virtual 3D environment helps students literally experience and test the entire product at an early stage. In the so-called Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE), future engineers obtain an intensive impression of the product's design and properties as well as of the tools and processes used for production. This is important because it elevates students' intuition and practical knowledge", explains Prof. Ovtcharova.

The first joint virtual seminar for students of the universities involved launched mid-October 2014. It was developed to give them insight into the complex interdependencies of a product development and creation process. The seminars account for aspects of engineering, economics, information technology, education and social science. All seminars developed at the faculties of the individual universities are offered at the same time, allowing students to exchange ideas during their project work with project members of the other universities.

"The courses offered through Lernfabrik 4.X provide an excellent opportunity for students to learn about current issues in production engineering.", emphasizes Professor Dr.-Ing. Rüdiger Haas, "But above all, both students and their future employers will benefit from the interdisciplinary approach beyond universities boundaries."

Moreover, a survey is currently being conducted in small and medium-sized companies, shedding light on their training situation and the requirements future employees should meet. The results are expected in early 2015.  Furthermore, expert forums shall be held, during which managers of SMEs and students can exchange information on current topics of manufacturing engineering. The launch event for the forum took place mid-October 2014.