Educational Research

Collaborative Research: A Flexible Adaptation Framework for Implementing ‘Learning Factory’-Based Manufacturing Education

Principal Investigators:
Delia J. Valles-Rosales and Edward Pines from the Department of Industrial Engineering

Contact us:
Department of Industrial Engineering
MSC 4230/ECIII, Rm 288
New Mexico State University
PO BOX 30001
Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001
Office phone (575) 646-2978
Fax (575) 646-2976

The main objective of this project is to improve overall student learning in manufacturing engineering and meet industry expectations by providing practical hands-on experiences that encourage students to learn by doing through the Learning Factory approach. This is a collaborative partnership among Wayne State University, Prairie View A&M University, New Mexico State University and Macomb Community College.

Funding Source:

National Science Foundation’s Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program Grant DUE-0817003.

The Learning Factory (LF) model was first developed as part of the TRP/NSF funded Manufacturing Engineering Education Partnership with the goal of developing a practice-based engineering curriculum that balances analytical and theoretical knowledge with integrated physical facilities for product realization in an industrial-like setting.
Current practices at NMSU  require that Manufacturing Integrated Learning Laboratory (MILL) students work with not only designing products but also work collaboratively to produce a report documenting their processes and final product.  Students present their design solutions to the participating faculty as well as their own clients. Multidisciplinary, client-based projects can introduce students to the type of ill-defined, “messy” problems common to workplace settings, where no single “right” answer can be located and where expertise from many disciplines must be included.

The MILL concept is an advancement of the groundbreaking Learning Factory (LF) model developed jointly by Pennsylvania State University, University of Washington, and University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez. The LF model presents an integrated engineering curriculum that balances analytical and theoretical knowledge with physical facilities for product realization in an industrial-like setting. It offers traditional engineering students an alternative path to a degree that directly prepares them for careers in manufacturing, design and product realization. The LF model is not readily transferable however, due to the high cost of implementing a full-blown Learning Factory, and the challenge of assembling a network of local industries willing to contribute funds, time and equipment.
For more details about the MILL at Wayne State University (Leader PI Institution), please visit: Project Title: Collaborative Research: A Flexible Adaptation Framework for Implementing ‘Learning Factory’ – Based Manufacturing Education” Grant numbers: DUE-0817391, 0817532, 0817003, and 0816804.

For more details about the original LF and its implementation at the pioneering institutions, please visit

Goals and Expected Outcomes
Encouraging students to develop creative engineering design skills in bringing a product to market is our expectation.  We provide an integrated product development experience taking a product from customer requirement through sustainable development.

We propose to establish a sequential curriculum process where aspects of the product lifecycle are addressed as the student matures in industrial engineering education.  Thus, evaluation occurs as products of one level are used by students at the next level of development. We are assessing the impacts of a collaborative general product and creating an assessment tool. In addition, we have identified products which have intrigued many engineering students and the NMSU community. From this, we anticipate a growth of interest in Industrial Engineering.

Methods and Strategies
The project is distributed in three major yearly phases.  All participant Institutions have worked on curriculum design and development.  Assessment tools were developed to determine how well the curriculum goals are being met at each of the institutions and across the consortium. The assessment tools were tested first at the Wayne State University. The results from this first level testing were used to refine the assessment tools for later deployment across the consortium in a second level test. The final content validity has been assessed using a modern measurement structural equation method.


Structural Equation Measurement Mode


A progressive learning environment has been implemented within four courses. Approximately 40 undergraduate students have been impacted. Of this, 50% are female and underrepresented  minorities. Students have participated in the design and manufacturing of an injection mold, remote control airplane, and a racing car.

Cost has been an objective in selecting the projects. The plan has been designed towards manufacturing our own project parts so that there will be a lower cost in implementing them into the curriculum.  We also plan to rotate projects periodically.
rapid prototyping mold2.jpg

Student Participants:

trip to albuquerque.JPG


Faculty Professors, Staff, and Students from the Departments of Industrial Engineering and  Mechanical Engineering
The Manufacturing and Technology Center (MTec) at NMSU
Dr. Peter Fine from the Department of Art
High School Excel Program


MILL Faculty Development Workshops:
Attendees at the MILL Faculty Development Workshop, November 4-5, 2010.
Workshop participants came from Bristol Community College, MA; California State University at Los Angeles; Fullerton College, CA; Gonzaga University, WA; Northern Arizona University; Purdue School of Engineering & Technology IUPUI, IN; Texas A&M University; Three Rivers Community College, CT; University of Alabama; University of Maine; University of Southern California; University of Southern Indiana; University of Southern Mississippi; and University of Utah. Also present were members of the Industrial Advisory Board.


Valles, D. and Pines, E. (2011). “Raising the Practical Skills of Engineering Students: A Collaborative Innovated Manufacturing Framework.” 2011 PACE Global Annual Forum. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. July 25-30, 2011

Valles, D. Pines, E. and Fine, P. (2012). “A Collaborative Education Program Towards a Sustainable Future in Re-Designing and Rapid Prototyping Commercially available Product Packaging.” Poster Presentation:  2012 PACE Global Annual Forum. Shanghai, China. July, 2012.