Shelley Emslie, 5th Grade Teacher at Swan Middle School in Bigfork, Montana

Teachers in classrooms all around the world are always on the lookout for new ways to inspire their students that will also mesh well with their traditional teaching methods and yearly curriculum. The education sector has been hard at work over the last several years to make lesson plans more interactive and technology-based, in order to get young students interested in 3D printing technology.

These new learning methods can help prepare students for future jobs, and learning about 3D printing will teach them to move past the textbook and on to problem solving and critical thinking.

Shelley Emslie, an educator for over 20 years and recent 3D printing advocate, is one great example of a teacher using 3D printing to initiate project-based learning in the classroom. She was also the subject of a recent education case study by San Diego-based Robo, one of the leading desktop 3D printing brands.

“The world is not 2D; we are equipping our students to compete, excel, and succeed in a 3D world,” Emslie said. “We use Robo’s 3D printers daily, and they inspire creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.”

“Robo has the vision for the future of innovative education.”

Emslie is from the rural, two-stoplight town of Bigfork, Montana, and in addition to being a Certified Google Educator, teaches fifth grade at Swan Middle School, which has only 169 students and one teacher per grade. Her goal is to make sure her students have all the tools they need to develop the proper skill sets for future employment.

She was introduced to 3D printing while attending several trade shows, and realized how much potential the technology could offer the students in her town. Emslie visited multiple booths with 3D printers and discussed various models with vendors, finally determining that Robo would be the best fit. Her school has a limited budget, but she didn’t let that fact stand in her way, and used Robo’s Education Grant Guide to acquire a donation of Robo 3D printers from the Donors Choose organization for her district.

Emslie began with two “workhorse” Robo R1+ 3D printers, and has since added the Robo R2 and Robo C2 to the mix. There are always a few learning curves when introducing new technologies, but Emslie jumped right in, using the Robo curriculum and existing education-focused online files to build a platform of 3D printing lesson plans that would work well with both Common Core and NGSS standards.

Once she and her students had the hang of things, Emslie started to add elements of the design cycle into the lessons. After learning Tinkercad, the fifth graders were able to make their own designs for specific lesson plans, testing out different iterations until they were successful, and the teacher even ended up learning new 3D design tactics from the students.

“During our Genius Hour – kids were making a Plant Vs. Zombies field and they needed a pea shooter,” Emslie said. “They did numerous iterations while learning the design process because the first print did not work and they had to obtain different models.”

Other classroom experiments included designing and 3D printing bubble wands when learning about the Scientific Method, and having the students build their own pieces of coral for a unit on different underwater ecosystems.

“In this experiment, I saved a ton of time going from Robo R1+ to Robo C2/R2 because of their onboard slicing system,” Emslie said when asked about her favorite Robo feature. “I no longer need to use slicing software at all. I took my kids’ Tinkercad coral reef designs and sent their STL models directly to the Robo C2 and R2. If I didn’t have this, I would have had to bring each model into a slicing software and prepare them to print one by one. It saved me over two hours of time on this experiment alone.”

After a full year of 3D printing lesson plans, both Emslie and the students have learned new capabilities through their Robo 3D printers – including Emslie learning that she can use OctoPrint to print through any device with WiFi. She said that Robo’s simplicity and ease of use are both winning features in her book.

“I have come to love my Robo printers and love the ease of the Robo C2 & Robo R2. The fact that we can print straight from Chromebooks has been transformational,” Emslie said.

“The problem I solved with Robo is simplicity. Robo has made it possible for the average teacher, with no 3D printing experience, to be successful. And with the education platform as a starter to 3D design and 3D printing lessons, I felt like I had great content to get me on the road to implementing 3D printing successfully. Opportunities for students in a rural school are often limited, and I viewed 3D printing as an invaluable experience to expose my learners to the future.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source/Images: Robo]

 

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