Creating a professional training program for technicians with the necessary skills to facilitate the migration to Industry 4.0, as envisaged by the DTAM project, it is required a deep knowledge of the subjects and technologies involved in the automation process of the industrial sector.

In this sense, there are projects that help deepen the use of advanced – and usually high-cost – technologies even within the walls of a classroom. One such opportunity is provided by the ThINKER LAB project, coordinated by Apro Formazione and realised thanks to a partnership of four European partners: Txorierri (Spain), SIC Ljubljana (Slovenia), Salpaus (Finland), Goteborgs Tekniska College (Sweden).

ThINKER LAB project, funded by the Erasmus+ programme, aims to provide a different approach to the study of STEM subjects, particularly for students with learning difficulties. Specifically, the project allows students to gain real-world experience of machines and automation systems, harnessing teachers’ skills and ideas in recreating industrial environments and using low-cost or shared hardware and solutions. The idea is to revolutionise the concept of industrial simulators in vocational schools by proposing a new approach with the following features:

  • Low-cost components such as actuators and sensors used in open-source systems, e. g. Arduino.
  • Easy construction using 3D printers, recycled materials and common tools that every school uses in its laboratory
  • Easy connection with student projects
  • Transparency of the interface: students do not need to know what the simulator looks like, they have to use the simulator like a real industrial system

Among the expected results of the project is the creation of an open online platform where teachers can find ideas and solutions to create their own simulators, downloading ready-to-use projects prepared by the project partners. But in addition to consulting the guidelines and projects, the platform is also intended to be a space where to upload new projects, share them with the community, give feedback, discuss and propose ideas, ask for suggestions or propose different solutions for common issues. At the end of the project, scheduled for November 2023, the platform will be open to welcome everyone’s contribution, so that it will be maintained and grow over time as a true reference point for teaching STEM subjects in VET schools.

Currently, a large collection of best practices is available on the site, from which teachers from all over Europe can extract teaching materials to use in the classroom. For example, a chemistry project in which a fluid analyser is created based on the use of red cabbage; a loudspeaker project, bicycle shelter projects, photovoltaic phone chargers and projects to survey trees in parks. All projects are freely downloadable and have minimal implementation costs that everyone can afford.

ThINKER LAB is an important project for reaching DTAM’s objectives because many of the skills that can be developed using the materials on the platform are closely related to the DTAM training course. Thanks to the tools on the platform, one can learn to use programmable boards such as Arduino, various types of sensors, such as the ultrasonic sensor that allows one to create an exercise to calculate the volume and weight of a product in a container, but also the use of:

  • stepper motors, used to make a clock;
  • optical sensors for object recognition;
  • temperature sensors, used in an exercise to control the overheating of a carbon fibre.

In addition, the IoT laboratory at Apro Formazione (Alba, Italy) is fully online and available to be used remotely by other schools that do not have it. Soon the other labs of the partnership will also be online.

In April and May 2023, five national and international Hackathons were held as part of the project activities. The student groups challenged each other on the development of a theme and were judged on technical correctness, amount of recycled materials used, number of external materials developed and compliance with the allocated budget.

The winners were the students of the Slovenian partner SIC Ljubljana, who presented a project on a package sorting system: using simple materials and specific sensors, they created a system capable of sorting packages with certain physical characteristics.

Find out more about the ThINKER LAB project, its activities and teaching tools by visiting

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *