Jacek Kawałek is a 3D printing proponent in an area that hasn’t, so far, fully embraced the technology – at least not on an educational level. While Poland is home to several successful 3D printing companies, the country’s school system has no official 3D printing curriculum at the high school level, and that’s what Kawałek, an IT teacher at Henryk Sienkiewicz Technical High School in Kołobrzeg, Poland, is striving to change. One of his goals is to make 3D printing an official school subject and area of specialization that students can “major” in before applying to technical schools – and despite bureaucratic obstacles, he’s made a lot of progress getting students and other locals interested and involved in the technology.

In his hometown, Kawałek has become known as an authority on 3D printing. Not only has he introduced the subject into several of his classes, he also speaks about it at educational conferences and works with local institutions, including museums, to fulfill various needs through 3D printing. He recently initiated a large project with his students in which they learned about their city by 3D modeling and 3D printing it at various important phases of its history. In addition, he plans to open a 3D printing learning center for other teachers. We recently spoke with Kawałek about his work for our Spotlight on Educators series.

Tell us a bit about your background, history and current work.

“I am a teacher of computer technology in the Group of Schools named after Henryk Sienkiewicz in Kołobrzeg, Poland. As for me, I am quite an unusual teacher. I am an electrician. For ten years I have worked mainly in spa centers. I went work the school by a woman. She was a teacher. I fell in love with her, and I married her. She was a vocation teacher. It is a pattern for me to work with students.  As a computer science teacher I have been working since 1992. I worked at all levels of school starting from elementary school to graduation.

My family went to Kołobrzeg in 1969 when I was 4 years old. To this day I remember the ruins of houses that remained after the Second World War. The city was very destroyed. I have long thought about presenting the history of the city. The capabilities of computers and 3D printers have made my dreams come true after many years.”

How did you first learn about and become involved with 3D printing?

“3D graphics and 3D printing I learned myself. In Poland there are no such trainings for teachers, and if they are already very expensive. That is why my main source of knowledge is the Internet.”

Tell us about the 3D printing project you recently worked on with your students.

“Kołobrzeg is a unique city. Because of centuries-old warfare almost everything was destroyed, while the remains were looted. The geographical location resulted in a very active development of the city and its wealth. As a result the city was often attacked. After the World War II because of the deportations all the citizens of Kołobrzeg are immigrant population. That is why we have problems with the our identity. It can be seen in a number of ways, for example, it is difficult to say which is our regional dish. Therefore, we decided to make a project which would unable us to get to know the history of our city, where within the centuries lots of nationalities coexisted in friendship and harmony. The aim is to build the awareness of the place we live in by the active participation of people in the implementation of the project.

At the beginning we created the data base of historic information. Thanks to the search of numerous websites, collecting and digitalization of the publications connected with Kołobrzeg and visits in some branches of national archives in Szczecin or Koszalin we have obtained a great material for our works. We also plan a visit in the Berlin’s archives.

The implementation of our project started in the spring of 2016 year thanks to the help from a company ZMorph, which made it available to use the first 3D printer. After the presentation of the preliminary effects of our works the District Authorities in Kołobrzeg bought us one printer and the City Office of Kołobrzeg another one. All the costs of the materials incurred at the preliminary works were mostly covered with our own funds.

We decided to start our works with making a mock-up of XV century city, as we had already had detailed description of archeological sites made by professor Marian Rębkowski. The completion and passing this mock-up to the city and our guests – as Kołobrzeg is a well known health and spa resort – is planned in November 2017 year.

We want to make the following mock-ups:

  • of the fortified town of 1000 year
  • fortress of 1650 year – Thirty Years’ War
  • fortress of 1750 year – Seven Years’ War
  • fortress of 1807 year – Napoleonic Wars
  • in 1935 year – before the break out of the World War II
  • in 1945 year – showing all the destruction after the fighting in March 1945
  • the present look of the city

The culmination of all the project is to be an animation showing the history of Kołobrzeg which we would like to prepare in technology 3D.

In November 2016 we were asked by the director of the Museum of Polish Weapons in Kołobrzeg to make a mock-up of a shipwreck of a German ferry MFP type –AM popularly called KANONIERKA (GUNBOAT), which was sunk in March 1945. The mock-up for the museum was given in March 2017. Seeing how we carried out our task we were asked again to make a mock-up of the same ship showing its looks in original. This project was completed in June 2017.

We are also invited to various education fares and conferences. We present there the output of our works, have workshops and give lectures. We organize conference ‘Od Becika Każdy klika’ which is a conference for 250-300 people, mostly teachers and enthusiasts of new technologies. During those conferences the idea to create in our school an educational centre for teachers emerged, which would promote using 3D print for educational purposes. This centre is planned to start in this year.”

What are your thoughts on the importance of 3D printing in schools, and how have your students and the people you’ve worked with responded to 3D printing? Is there a strong level of interest?

“Students are very interested in this technology. In addition, our project provides an opportunity to learn the history of the place we live in. Besides, there is another element. The pupils’ families were very interested in what we were doing. They are waiting impatiently to see the effect of their children’s work. Some times I happened to be in the street, people asking me for details of the project. Some did not believe that we would succeed. Others cheered us on to succeed. Through this atmosphere the students began to engage more. And even those who initially did not want to take part in it. It was the same with the Teachers. At first I did not have any support. However, over time it changed for the better, and even they themselves came to offer help.”

What obstacles have you faced in bringing 3D printing to the classroom? What advice would you give to educators who want to start implementing 3D printing curriculum in their own schools?

“Unfortunately technological novelties are very slowly implemented into the curriculum in schools…The biggest problem in school is that you can not devote entirely to such a project. We must plan more time. In order to get good quality it is known that you have to work long hours on the graphics and the printout must last. So taking for such projects you have to calculate well the execution time and increase it accordingly. In addition, such projects are designed to teach, so it must be anticipated that not all the things that the students will do will immediately print. We also need to anticipate larger stocks of funds. Works on the project were mainly held as part of extracurricular activities. A lot of work students also did at home. As the project evolved, the interest in 3D printing increased, too, with teachers from other schools. This results in the fact that from the next school year we want to open our 3D Print Training Center for teachers at our school. The biggest problem, however, is in the bureaucracy which quite effectively slows down the introduction of such projects.”

3D printing is critically important for all students to learn, and the younger they begin, the better. While pretty much everyone in the 3D printing industry agrees on that fact, it can still take a while for the technology to make its way into schools, due to financial issues and bureaucracy, as Kawałek has described. Often, it’s teachers like Kawałek, who are willing to push for the implementation of 3D printing programs and to lead educational efforts themselves, who are instrumental in bringing 3D printing to schools.

Below, you can see some video of the progress of the 3D printing project Kawałek implemented with his students:

Share your thoughts in the Jacek Kawalek forum at 3DPB.com.

[All photos provided courtesy Jacek Kawałek]

 

If you are interested in sharing your story, or know an educator we should get in touch with, please reach out any time. Send us an email or connect on Twitter. We’re looking forward to sharing your stories. Find all the features in this series here.

 

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