3D print: Adding an extra dimension to education

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3D print: Adding an extra dimension to education

11:30 20 January in Education sector
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Portrait of young businessman with toy paper wings. Success, creative and startup concept. Copy space for your text

 

3D print: Adding an extra dimension to education

3D printing is now an established technology used for prototyping and manufacturing products and components across a range of industries. It already has applications in many areas of everyday life, including in education where the technology holds massive potential for young people.

Early adopters of education-based 3D print technology were largely found in Design and Technology classrooms. However, as schools have got to grips with the tech and discovered the potential uses for it, usage has expanded dramatically. For example, links have been made between mathematics, design and physics in a similar way to, for example, ‘sound’ enabling links between music, physics (wave properties), biology (hearing) and engineering (concert hall design).

The 3D Printer Project

A recent Department for Education study explored new and innovative ways of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and design subjects that realised the full potential of 3D printers in the classroom.

A total of 21 schools participated in the pilot project to explore the potential benefits of using the device in STEM teaching. Examples of how the printers were used included:

  • science departments used the 3D printer as a context to discuss the properties of plastics, to build models for teaching science such as molecules, eyeballs, cells and sine waves, and to build components for working equipment such as rockets
  • at Watford Grammar School for Boys the printer was used to demonstrate a 3D graph for various algebraic equations as well as producing examples of regular shapes (dodecahedron)
  • Honywood Community Science School in Essex designed an advanced 3D development learning tool, enabling pupils to create 3D objects using typed code in POV-Ray3. This enabled pupils to practise writing and debugging code and also supported studying algebra and understanding 3D/2D space
  • At Chelmsford County High School for Girls, pupils made brackets and injection moulded cases for GCSE Engineering projects, and vacuum formers and model bottles for GCSE Graphics
  • Windsor Boys’ School pupils made a desk lamp in model format and were looking to create a life-size “to-scale” version. This version would then incorporate the underlying concept of all component parts joining together and working independently
  • Year 10 students at Waldegrave School for Girls in Twickenham produced drawings and products ranging from letter stands, business card holders and phone stands for Father’s day’s gifts
  • Science departments used the 3D printer as a context to discuss the properties of plastics, to build models for teaching science such as molecules, eye-balls, cells and sine waves, and to build components for working equipment such as rockets.James Brady, head of technology at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, in Canterbury, Kent, said: “With the printer carrying out the ‘production’ of objects, more time can be spent considering the science and mathematics involved in design. One pupil stated that the 3D printer had heightened her interest in mathematics and improved her desire to learn. Subsequently she commented that it improved her level of achievement.”

    Effects on pupils and learning

    As the school project clearly shows, 3D printing can be used across many departments within a school. Perhaps more important however is the fact that the schools involved in the pilot scheme reported that pupils with poor concentration were able to see tangible results more quickly and as a result they kept interest in the lesson. Several pupils commented that they could make shapes and components on a 3D printer that they couldn’t make with the technology they had in class. They were able to explore more complex designs and ideas which meant they remained more interested.
    Feedback from users shows that 3D printers have significant potential as a teaching resource and can have a positive impact on pupil engagement and learning if schools can master how to use the printers in an effective and meaningful way. That’s something we’ll look at in a future article.

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