Learning Made Fun through 3D Printers in Educational Institutions
3d printing has made its splash at many industries such as aerospace, automotive and even biomedical engineering sectors. However, there is one more sector where 3d printing can potentially make a lasting difference, providing many learning opportunities. At educational institutions ranging from elementary schools to universities, 3d printing can bring a revolutionary change in the way we teach and learn. Till now, there has been very limited application of 3d printing in educational institutions due to lack of knowledge of this technology and more importantly, the involved cost. The decision makers of the education sector have simply not given it much thought until recently. However, some projects have been successful in spreading the joy of creation with the help of 3d printing in different schools.
As this is a relatively new technology, the best results of it can be reaped through introducing 3d printers into private and public schools. Usually young people find it easier to adapt to new ideas, methods, and get a better insight on how things function. This is the reason why children are the best recipients of new languages and technology compared to adults. Therefore, the preferred targets of a 3d printing based curriculum of education are elementary, junior high and high schools.
At Schools in the US
At Webster Stanley Middle School Wisconsin, seventh graders are designing interesting things with 3d printers such as small clocks complete with ridges and numbers. They are all very happy due to the fact that they can now implement complex designs with little effort and printing them out just like that. Students are gradually becoming familiar with 3d printing technology as 3d printers have been installed in every high and middle school in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This is due to a grant that has funded the purchase of these $700 printers. 3d printers have also been introduced in higher education i.e. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. These are excellent tools for teaching children about the required skills for engineering careers. Teachers are discovering the various learning opportunities that 3d printing can bring in areas such as math, science and engineering. On the basis of grade level, 3d printers are used in a limited scale, while at higher levels, students are given challenges to design their own full scale printing projects.
Similar is the case of the students at North High School who used the printer to create parts that resembled the roses and fins of rockets. One of their other innovations was creating a vehicle powered by a mouse trap, for which the students printed out and designed some crucial parts. For the study of paleontology, the department of geology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh uses 3d printing technology to create models of prehistoric bones. There are two printers in the lab that build bones of dinosaurs and other prehistoric artifacts by creating plastic molds. Scientists then scan and upload the designs in order to discuss and share knowledge. Another higher education institution that uses 3d printers is Fox Valley Technical College, which has four of these printers. Students of the mechanical design department use them to create design prototypes that can later be presented during job interviews to display their skills at the board. Students are even building electric guitars in combinations of 3d printing and woodworking skills. Instructors at both institutions believe that 3d printing has opened up new spheres of learning, and can have a crucial role in education. Using 3d printing for rapid prototyping, engineering and manufacturing works is just scratching the surface of endless possibilities.
The CREATE Education Project, UK
Builders of the Ultimaker 3d printer have come together to bring 3d printing revolution to the educational institutions of the UK. This one of a kind project, dubbed CREATE combines 3d printing technology, creative minds and content full of inspiration. This is a collaborative platform that actually provides resources free of cost, the ultimate goal being to seed innovation. Created with the help of active community members, contributors and education decision makers, CREATE is an active network of people who have embraced the passion of 3d printing in order to improve access to education. Educators and industry leaders were asked about the challenges and opportunities, and then the project members aligned them to their core values. Ultimaker sponsors various local and national level competitions, regional hubs, and school interactive sessions, etc. in order to facilitate collaborative learning.
Ultimaker is also working on creating an active curriculum that makes for fostering and development of new thoughts. This ensures that every child is included in their project and the gap of skills is filled. They believe that 3d printing is great for learning and development of design realization. They also ensure digital access by using Cura software, allowing an abundant resource of scanners, downloaded templates and design software that can be accurately viewed and printed out in 3d. The project is geared by the fact that a clear understanding of concepts is vital before teaching it to someone else. The design approach of 3d printers helps individuals- whether teachers or learners to experiment with design independently, and then shares their knowledge with others.
We are residing in a new realm of technology in which 3d printing can be an important step towards interactive learning. Instead of being stuck in the past and disseminating information like previous generations, more and more schools should embrace this technology for better understanding.
Various companies are trying to bring change by introducing 3d printing curriculum space, and more of such initiatives are needed. Schools tend to operate on smaller budgets; hence many schools cannot afford 3d printing technology. Also, 3d printing can be intimidating to older generations; hence not many are familiar with the dos and don’ts of it. Therefore, when it is time to allot budgets for schools, those who happen to be unfamiliar with 3d printing tend to vote against it. Due to this reason, there needs to be more initiative by governments in educating the decision makers, as well as making them aware about the technology and how it can help.
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