It is becoming increasingly common to integrate 3D printing into education earlier and earlier. While we’re not quite at the stage where we have lamaze/3D print workshops for expectant parents, there is something to be said for getting kids exposed to the technology at a young age. Not all schools have been able to create optimal learning experiences for kids and yet the idea that this is a technology with which it will be important to develop fluency is widely accepted.
In an effort to aid young learners in the development of the skills required to harness the power of this technology, Peter Phelps, who we have covered before for his innovative 3D printed neck hair trimmer, has authored a series of eBooks for kids designed to walk them through learning at their own pace. The first three volumes are available on Scribd.com and the author anticipates the release of a total of 10 volumes in all.
The first three volumes of the series titled FreeCAD 3D Printing 4Kids! cover topics such as robots (volume 1), pendants (volume 2), and personalized text (volume 3) and cost $1.99 each for download. In the course of the books, students are introduced to the concept of Cartesian coordinates and how they describe three dimensional space, get help navigating the differences between Mac and PC versions of FreeCAD, and given the tools they need to easily convert inches to millimeters.
Phelps holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Science with a specialization in Visual Media and has worked on his own as a 3D printing consultant for the past several years. He decided to create this educational eBook series to fill a need that he saw in STEM education.
In an email to 3DPrint.com, he described what he hopes to offer through these books:
“[T]he impetus behind the FreeCAD 3D Printing 4 Kids! series of eBooks [is to] inspir[e] the next generation of engineers, artists, and designers to imagine greater possibilities, while learning the skills necessary to make their creativity translate into the 3D printing world. All three volumes use a dynamic teach-while-doing method to introduce the student to computer aided drafting for 3D printing.”
He specifically decided to focus on FreeCAD because of its open source nature and the fact that it can, once it has been downloaded, be used without an internet connection, making it highly accessible. While following the tutorials, the reader learns about Boolean operations, exporting .STL files, checking files for errors, and using the workbench toolbars among other lessons.
The key to remember with these resources is that Phelps is not a graphic designer and so improvements could be made to the pages in terms of legibility and graphic presentation. My primary recommendation for improvement would be to change the text font to one that allows for both capital and lower case letters. This is mostly for legibility, specifically in considering younger readers but this would also improve the reading experience at all age levels.
As more people utilize these eBooks, there will be opportunities for Phelps to smooth out any issues that arise, the important thing is to have made a start. Now, at a price that is well within most budgets, any kid can become familiar with the basic tools they will need to, at least, stay up to speed and, at best, truly unleash their inner creativity.
What are your thoughts on this ebook series? Let us know in the 3D Printing for Kids Forum thread on 3DPB.com.