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ODU Engineering Professor Earns Grant to Teach 3-D Printing in Home Country of Vietnam

An Old Dominion University engineering professor was recently awarded a grant to teach 3-D printing to students in his home country of Vietnam, and will add his own twist.

Han P. Bao received a U.S. Faculty Scholar Grant from the Vietnam Education Foundation and will spend the spring 2016 semester as a visiting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Can Tho University in Vietnam. At ODU, Bao is the Mitsubishi Kasei Endowed Professor of Manufacturing Engineering, and graduate program director of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

When designing on a computer, it's hard for engineers to conceptualize the finished work, Bao said.

"If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this is worth 1,000 pictures," he said, holding up a 3-D printed gear.

Allowing engineers to improve design by seeing how a product will actually work has led to the recent explosion in the popularity of 3-D printing. Using a thermal plastic, parts of a design are printed and assembled for the engineers to understand how the concept will work in real time, Bao said.

"It's hard to imagine what your design will look like until you can hold it in your hand and see how it works, or if it works," Bao said. "It's also more exciting for customers to see the product."

The classes in Vietnam will be the same manufacturing technology concepts as those he's teaching in the United States, Bao said, but will be considered "highly innovative" there. It may be the first time the students will see 3-D printing in action.

"For a country like Vietnam, education technology has a long way to go to catch up to us, and Europe, so this introduction to a class is highly innovative," Bao said.

The printer, called a Mojo by Stratasis, was purchased through the grant and housed until recently in Bao's office and will stay at Can Tho University as a donation from ODU.

Although Bao has not lived in Vietnam since 1963, the opportunity to spend an extended period of time there is a welcome one, he said. He also sees opportunity to encourage more students to come to the United States, and Old Dominion University specifically.

ODU hosts a number of students from Vietnam, including two students currently working toward their Ph.D.'s, Bao said.

He also sees it as an opportunity to learn himself about the process of advising doctoral students in another country's educational system.

"You always learn when you're exposed to something new," he said. "And I think we can count on more Vietnamese students coming to ODU."

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