There has recently been a movement to bring more STEM education into the classroom from educators and technology advocates all over the world. The reality is that the future of high-tech product development will require a working knowledge of STEM skills and concepts, so integrating it into the educational workflow is pretty vital if any school wants to produce students ready for life in the 21st century. Unfortunately there has been quite a bit of resistance, not so much because schools are unwilling to teach more well-rounded subjects but rather because many educators simply don’t know how to make it part of their curriculum.
Using educational games has been a tried and true method for making education more palatable to children for years. While educational games like flash cards predate digital educational games by decades, video games like Oregon Trail were made to help a new generation of children learn history and strategy by using modern tools like desktop computers. The purpose of both flash cards and Oregon Trail are the same: take complicated or boring educational material and dress it up as a fun-to-play game to help familiarize students with concepts and ideas that would traditionally bore them. It is sort of the “spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” approach to education.
Microsoft Japan has decided to use this approach to technology education with their new attempt to bring coding, programming and 3D printing into Japanese middle schools. The Japan-based Microsoft subsidiary teamed up with Japanese 3D printing service provider Kabuku and the Rinkak Avatar 3D Printing Solution for a pilot tutorial project that aims to introduce students to basic coding concepts and digital fabrication using the world of Minecraft. The pilot program is a test case for the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Dream School Council of The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan.
The ICT Dream School’s new course is called Digital House Making and is being offered to grade six students from the Sarugaku Elementary School in Tokyo with ten 45-minute sessions. Each student will design and build their own building or structure and then have it 3D printed for them. The class was set up to use the familiar game language of Minecraft to encourage the students to learn more about basic coding and 3D printing technology. The ultimate goal is to help the young students learn new skills and hopefully give them the desire to continue with their programming lessons.
In order to provide the students with their 3D printed buildings Kabuku integrated the Rinkak Avatar 3D printing app into the Minecraft game. With the app, once the student’s structure is done they can simply send the building off to be 3D printed as duplicates of their Minecraft structure. Once Kabuku 3D prints the buildings using full color sandstone it is sent directly to the classroom so the students can continue their coding and 3D printing technology lessons.
While it is still too early to judge the success of the project, so far it seems to be quite promising. Early indications are that holding a 3D printed copy of their Minecraft building makes it easier for students to understand how programming and coding is used to build virtual objects. You can learn more about the class and see some of the student works over on the Rinkak website. Are you a Minecraft fan? What do you think of this project? Discuss in the Microsoft Japan and Minecraft 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.