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danwoodThere are plenty of crises in the United States right now. Economic inequality, obesity, drought, Donald Trump – if you’re for some reason looking for something to worry about, there’s a long list of crises to choose from. One particularly worrisome crisis is the education crisis. No matter where you live, you’re going to find at least one nearby school district with failing grades, terrible graduation rates, asbestos in the walls, and issues with violence.

At the heart of all of these problems is that a lot of public schools just don’t have enough money. Although education is vitally important, it’s often one of the first things to get slashed when budget troubles arise. It’s sad, and wrong, but it’s never surprising when it happens. Often, arts education is the first thing to go, which hurts my liberal arts degree-holding soul, but STEM courses suffer as well, despite global effort to put more emphasis on those (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects in schools.

[Image: Makerbot]

[Image: MakerBot]

At the heart of STEM education is 3D printing. The technology’s importance in early education has been stressed again and again by government agencies, economic experts, and others, but the trouble is that 3D printers are expensive. Many manufacturers are increasing their focus on education, creating printers that are specifically designed for classrooms and priced much more affordably, but when many schools can’t even afford basic lab equipment, even the cheapest 3D printers are a luxury.

ukulele_cubepro_dThe Danwood Group has a simple solution: a 3D printer rental service. The English print and document solutions company is introducing a UK-wide program that will allow schools to rent a CubePro for as little as £145 a month, which includes delivery, installation, consumables and a 12-month warranty.

“3D printing is seeing rapid adoption and schools are starting to realise the many benefits that adding 3D printing to the curriculum can have, from inspiring pupils to helping to teach complex ideas,” said Richard Wells, National Sales Manager at Danwood. “Being able to rent a 3D printer on a monthly basis removes the upfront investment while ensuring full compliance with procurement processes, and opens up the opportunity for all schools across the country who want to equip their students for the future.”

3ds-2The United Kingdom Department for Education explored the impact of 3D printing in the classroom via a pilot program in 2012 and 2013. 21 schools participated in the program, which introduced 3D printing into STEM courses on an experimental basis. The results showed a very positive impact: 3D printing kept students, even those with poor concentration, engaged and interested in their classes. It served as a tool for creating interdisciplinary connections, and was overall a very effective teaching resource. These findings mirror those of many other studies of 3D printing’s impact on education. Add to that the fact that 3D printing is almost certainly going to be a vital skill in most industries in the near future, and it seems that the technology should be a mandatory school subject.

That’s why a 3D printer rental program is such a great idea, and it’s a simple one, too. I’m surprised more programs like it haven’t been introduced already. Hopefully, Danwood will set an example for other companies and school districts to follow suit. I, for one, hope to see the idea catch on within US schools – very soon. Discuss your thoughts on what might soon become a new trend in education in the Danwood School Rental Programs for CubePro 3D Printers forum over at 3DPB.com.

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