As the school year gets underway once again, many 3D printing companies are sharpening their focus on education – and are launching contests focused on education, as well. Many 3D printing contests, especially those centered on education, serve a larger purpose than just finding a winner. Of course everyone enters a contest hoping to win, but in many cases, there’s a lot more to be gained than just a prize. Challenges can encourage participants to think in different ways, as well as to benefit from the ideas of others, which is especially valuable in the education world.

The latest contest from Pinshape, sponsored by MatterHackers and Ultimaker, is beneficial to all educators that use 3D printing – or want to use it. The Create to Educate Lesson Plan Contest asks educators to come up with a lesson plan that incorporates 3D printing or 3D design in some way. The lesson plan can be for any subject; the contest is less about teaching 3D printing itself as a subject and more about how it can serve as a tool for teaching anything. As Pinshape points out, using 3D printing in the classroom helps students to engage more with what they’re learning, and makes lessons more interactive and memorable.

For example, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, one of the contest’s judges, is a middle school teacher who uses 3D printing in her English Language Arts curriculum. Some may wonder how 3D printing relates to English, but 3D printing can be incorporated into any subject with a little creativity.

“Many times, language arts teachers assume that design thinking is for STEM classes and clubs only,” said Wolpert-Gawron. “But I believe that the concept of making IS writing, prototyping IS drafting, and empathizing IS used in determining [the needs] of your audience.”

The contest runs from October 2nd to November 30th. Entrants must upload a PDF of their lesson plant and at least one STL file to the Pinshape site. There’s no cost to enter, and entrants can submit as many times as they would like. Works must be completely original and not based on pre-existing characters or remixes of someone else’s work, and the contest is open to anyone around the world.

The first place winner will receive an Ultimaker 3, the recently introduced MatterControl T7X, and a spool of MatterHackers Pro PLA. Second place will win a Crafty 3D Printing Pen from MatterHackers, and a $100 MatterHackers gift card. The third place winner will receive a $50 MatterHackers gift card.

“3D printing is a multi-multifaceted tool that sparks creativity, challenges understanding of concepts, supports individualized learning, teaches 21st century skills, and creates engaging lessons,” Mark Simmons, Technology Director at Sabine Pass ISD and another of the judges, told 3DPrint.com. “It can be implemented in STEM classes, used for fundraisers, or create manipulatives for all subjects and grades. Investment and consumable costs are low and support communities are abundant.”

The judges, who also include Matthew C. Hartman and Josh Ajima, are all education professionals who have worked as teachers, developed curriculum, and helped to create education standards. Judging criteria includes the following:

  • How well defined is the lesson plan and does the lesson achieve its objective?
  • Does the lesson plan include a relevant STL file that enhances learning outcomes and (if applicable) instructions on how students can make their own?
  • How engaging and interesting is this lesson plan?
  • Does the lesson plan specify which state standards it is following and adhere to those standards?

Having your design 3D printed certainly doesn’t hurt your chances, either. For more information on the contest and how to enter, you can visit the official page here. You can also see example lesson plans as well as entries already uploaded.

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