This autumn, South Ural State University was one of the first to join the process of teaching schoolchildren within the Governor's Engineering Classes project. Schoolchildren from Lyceum No. 11, Lyceum No. 120, Privilegiia IT Lyceum and Krasnooktyabrskii Secondary School in the village of Ishalino solve real problems set by PAO Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant. Students of the Department of Machines and Processes of Pressure Metal Working act as mentors, and schoolchildren act as development engineers of a large project.
"On the initiative of the Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region Alexey Texler, Governor's Engineering Classes were opened at 22 schools in our region in September 2023, as part of the Engineers of the Future 74 project. The goal of the ongoing project is to create conditions for motivated choice by graduates of schools and colleges of higher education, popularize engineering education, and close connections with high-tech enterprises in our region "from their school days". South Ural State University is one of the key partners of this project: we are partners of more than 12 participating schools," said Vice-Rector for Education Marina Potapova.
The format of the problems that schoolchildren work on can be divided into two areas: computer vision in industry and the creation of a digital twin of a technological object.
As part of the first direction, the plant has set the task of developing a computer vision system that will be able to evaluate the geometry of a product during the production process and evaluate the presence of defects and their criticality. Creating a digital twin will help identify problems with equipment at the enterprise and determine the approximate timing of necessary maintenance. In addition to the mentioned two areas of projects, the schoolchildren also have mechanization and automation of the entrusted production site on their agenda, and it is also possible to equip it with a manipulator, which the schoolchildren will develop themselves. It is planned to complete the work by producing a working prototype.
"The main thing for schoolchildren is their willingness to learn, and we and our student mentors will teach them to understand the topic. Our ultimate goal is to bring the work to the point of implementation at the plant with the installation of specific lines and the purchase of industrial equipment. The management of Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant, in their turn, took the choice of task for schoolchildren and students very seriously − they selected a real and relevant task associated with new equipment and new technologies," explained Oleg Siverin, senior lecturer at the SUSU Department of Machines and Processes of Pressure Metal Working.
Meetings for the participants of engineering classes take place in the university laboratories several times a week. Nowadays, schoolchildren are learning computer modelling and the basics of neural networks.
"Metallurgy today is not what it was 100 or even 50 years ago. A large number of areas of metallurgy have emerged: both white and green. Employees of metallurgical enterprises work in white coats and hard hats. Metallurgy is not just about hot furnaces. From the moment this understanding comes to them, schoolchildren will stop being afraid of it. We show real enterprises, real people, talk about social packages and salary levels," said Natalia Shtin, Associate Professor at the SUSU Department of Materials Science, Physical and Chemical Properties of Materials.
A meeting between the SUSU organizational group and the management of the enterprise, headed by the Engineering Director of PAO Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant Aleksandr Gorkusha, took place last week. The schoolchildren will get acquainted with the equipment and technology at the plant, and the engineering staff, who have recently been students at SUSU, are ready to give them advice and suggest solutions.
"We got into the Governor’s Engineering Classes project quite easily. In fact, we have been working with our future applicants in a similar format for a long time. About 6 years ago an engineering school was created at the SUSU Institute of Engineering and Technology, and that was our first experience. Egor Alekseev, for example, is a graduate of the first group, and now he is one of the mentors of the engineering classes," explained Oleg Siverin.
Employees and students of the university, within the framework of projects with PAO Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant, supervise and guide three teams of schoolchildren. The most active schoolchildren, in parallel with the main project, are preparing their own original technical projects, which they plan to present at engineering and technical competitions.