“Hello, citizens of earth. Our journey from the planet couldn’t have gone any better. Though we had a few minor problems, we successfully landed on our new home world as of late last week. We are turning to the people of earth to help us design our first city, City X. Our citizens have begun identifying their problems and we shall make their translations available to all citizens of earth…our future and the future of mankind is in your hands.”
This is an announcement that was heard by children participating in the Common Core-aligned 3D printing and design thinking curriculum in cities from Jakarta, Indonesia to Eek, Alaska. These students, ranging in age from 8 – 12 years then set about creating a series of inventions that would help the distressed aliens to live a better life in their new location.
Sponsored by 3D Systems, and developed by a team at IDEAco, the exercise is meant both to familiarize school children with the ins and outs of 3D design and printing and to teach them the basic design skills necessary in today’s world. It is no longer enough to know how to read and write, children must also learn how to solve problems the scope of which can never be fully known in advance, and for which there is no one right answer.
This project builds on a long tradition in industrial design programs to help the students see past their preconceived notions of what the responses to a problem can be by removing the familiarity of the context. In this way, they learn not a set response to a particular issue, but a method by which to approach any problem that presents itself. The importance of this type of thinking has also been highlighted by education and creativity experts such as Sir Ken Robinson who spoke of the necessity of educating children to face unknown circumstances with creativity:
“We have a huge vested interest in it [education], partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue…what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.”
The toolkit to participate in this project is available for free download for educational use. If you don’t have access to a 3D printer in your classroom, you may want to consider entering their contest to win one for your school. One US-based teacher will receive a Cube 2 3D Printer. The deadline for entering is September 23rd and multiple entries can be gained by doing things like joining the City X mailing list or tweeting about the giveaway.
The first step to entering the contest is to download the toolkit which includes a step-by-step guide (so detailed that even if you have never worked with this type of technology before, you will find yourself able to by the end!), an in depth guide connecting the project to the standards of the Common Core, a list of materials and equipment, printable support materials to run the project such as workbooks and citizen cards, and a series of additional educational exercises that will help students and teachers take the project even farther.
If you need to share this idea with your colleagues, all of the supplemental resources you could need are provided. Whether its an introduction to the idea of 3D printing or a more detailed explanation of how this project works, the creators of the City X project have assembled videos, Prezi presentations, and STL files to help support your efforts to integrate 3D printing and design thinking into your classroom curriculum.
So, don’t wait – enter the contest and help not only the citizens of City X but the children in your classroom. Discuss how 3D printers are helping children better learn, in the 3D printers and education forum on 3DPB.com. Further details about this project are explained in the video provided below.
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