Teachers have long delighted in their student’s creativity, curiosity, and ingenuity—except maybe when the kids are sneaking peeks at their phones in class! But young people tend to be early proponents of new technology, and education must keep up to help students realize the full potential of their affinity for that technology. Consider these five benefits of 3D printing technology in education.
Kids are good at identifying issues to complain about, along with unmet needs. But the question to put to them is, “So, what are you going to do about it?”
Schoolchildren have used 3D printing to design a new nature play area, a glitter-shooting prosthetic arm, a fidget toy, and a football-shaped “emergency mask pod” that firefighters can throw to people in burning buildings. Inside the pod is an emergency mask to help reduce smoke inhalation, eye protection, and a glow stick to boost a trapped person’s visibility to rescuers.
Teaches the Value of Failure
The saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again,” pretty much describes the iteration process involved in creating functional prototypes and other computer-designed objects using 3D printing. Failure is just another word for discovery in this process. When you print out a part that doesn’t fit, wheels that won’t turn, or a model that proves your design dimensions are off-kilter, you provide yourself with important information for the next round of design; the following steps focus on correcting and improving the end result.
Although there are now several sites where designers and hobbyists can upload their plans for 3D-printed objects, they might not fit exactly what a student has in mind. But these sites can generate ideas that kids can take back to their computers and improve upon or modify to create the object they imagined.
That’s what Jakob Sperry did when he designed his Gyrings fidget toy. He took an existing design and modified it to create multiple interlocking rings that a user can manipulate to keep their hands busy when they’re feeling restless. This is something that calms many kids with ADHD or autism spectrum disorders.
Complex, Realistic Models
Even though you can see a 3D rendering of an object on a computer screen, it’s not the same as holding the thing in your hands. 3D printing is used to make realistic medical models of bodily organs and systems that medical students can take apart and reconstruct.
Students from kindergarten to university can better visualize molecular and crystalline structures, bridge support systems, and human anatomy using 3D printing techniques. They can also recreate historical tools or use their imaginations to fashion costume pieces, helmets, and masks for reenactments of historical events.
School resources are perennially scarce. Teachers invest far too much of their own money in buying supplies. However, 3D printers and 3D printing supplies have become more affordable as the technology is broadly adopted by hobbyists and manufacturers. If your children’s school is has a tight budget, offer to donate a 3D printer and a starter supply of printing filament for teachers to use with their students. You’ll be amazed at what the students create!
Using 3D technology in education offers an opportunity for hands-on learning and experimentation. It also exposes students to important 21st-century skills that all of us will need to address the complex health, environmental, and technical issues of modern life.