So You’ve Got a 3D Printer in Your Classroom – What Now?

3d printer in your classroomA fortnight ago we gave a lecture for the Technical Teachers Association (TTA), unveiling the Rocket Car project. The overall aim of the seminar was to give teachers a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) project that uses 3D printing in different ways. For example, children can be asked to design the chassis / wheels; the rocket car can be used in its current design for student learning about acceleration or propulsion.

We designed the rocket car chassis and wheels using SketchUp and printed the object on our Makerbot Replicator 2X. We then uploaded the object to Thingiverse, for teachers to download and use, along with instructions (it’s free)!  This means that students and teachers can print the object or try designing different parts of the car. As the children assemble the rocket car teachers can guide the pupils on other learning areas: Do the size of holes make a difference to the functionality of the rocket car? Would filling in with water make a difference?

3D Printers are great for teaching aids in all areas of the curriculum. To name a few, a 3D “dissected” frog, times-tables wheels or historical models.  As another example, we spoke to a teacher who had a 3d printer in the classroom - his students had designed and 3D printed spoon handles for children with special needs in order to make the process of mixing ingredients in the cookery class more accessible.

How do you justify a 3D printer in your classroom?  In a government report it was found that teachers who were most engaged and passionate with the 3D printing topic itself were most likely to inspire that same passion in their students.  They conclude:

Feedback from this exploratory project confirms 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

This is why the rocket car wholeheartedly supports learning for both adults and children. The benefits are similar for all ages: a great ice breaker and opportunity for greater connection between teammates and a chance to understand a brand new field.

3D printing is still a raw and fascinating experiment that is still in its early stages. The possibilities for development are expansive and the opportunity for participation is open to adults and children alike. From our point of view, it was also really interesting to note that when uploaded to Thingiverse, the rocket car was more popular than every other 3D printed object we have ever uploaded.

So: get ready, set, and prepare to bring the world of 3D printing to your school!