It’s pretty much universally agreed upon that 3D printing education is vital in schools from early elementary through college levels. Most kids in school today will encounter 3D technology in their careers, no matter what industry they go into. As the technology evolves so rapidly, it’s critical to familiarize children with it as early as possible so that they can keep up in the future. One issue that arises, however, is finding enough teachers who have sufficient knowledge about 3D printing to be able to teach students. Particularly in elementary schools, many teachers haven’t been trained in the technology; it’s likely, in fact, that their students may already know more about 3D printing than they do.
Who will teach the teachers? That’s the question that Makers Empire had to consider before launching a pilot program that will implement 3D printing education within 28 public primary schools in South Australia. The program, which will officially launch in the first semester of 2016, is part of an effort to revive flagging interest in STEM subjects, which schools have not significantly been addressing. 3D printers and Makers Empire software will be provided to the pilot schools, but first, the teachers need to learn.
The $40,000 one-year program is a collaboration between Makers Empire, Datacom and the South Australia Department for Education and Child Development. The program is part of the government’s response to criticism that the state’s schools are doing little to encourage interest in STEM subjects, focusing instead on liberal arts education that will ultimately produce thousands of graduates will few job prospects. The hope is that 3D printing, which is so appealing to young people, will be a gateway to generate interest in other areas of science and technology.
“Simply installing 3D printers in schools is not enough – teachers must receive training on the hardware and the software as well as receive advice on how 3D design and printing fits into the curriculum,” said Jon Soong, CEO of Makers Empire. “The fastest and most effective way to use this technology is adoption of ready-made and proven programs together with training. This initiative will train cohorts of teachers, building communities of expertise that can collaborate and share knowledge and teaching practices.”
Female students are a particular focus. Worryingly, females still lag behind males in the pursuit of careers in science and technology, which is likely at least partially due to the wrongheaded but still-prevalent belief that “girls just aren’t good at math and science.” Makers Empire hopes to change that.
“Anecdotally, we see that more girls are into design than coding,” said Soong. “Of course there are exceptions but it’s just the way it is. But we can’t forget that STEM is more than just computer science. The concepts you learn in 3D printing can open into health science, biology, even a career in the 3D printing industry itself, where the jobs’ growth is much faster than in traditional computing.”
The schools involved in the pilot program will report back on the ways they are implementing the technology in their classrooms, as well as on the outcomes and student evaluations. If the program is a success, more primary schools may be added in the future. Discuss this program in the Makers Empire 3D printing Education forum on 3DPB.com.