The aptly named Zaniac — a mini-campus focused on delivering additional, after-school STEM education opportunities to students enrolled in grades K-8 — has now added a 3D printing program to its bevy of offerings. Sidharth Oberoi, Chief Academic Officer for Zaniac, proudly announced this latest effort that also included the introduction of the Kerbal Space Program:

“The STEM revolution has finally landed in Utah. Parents and students alike have asked us to offer additional, applicable science and math learning opportunities. We are pleased to be able to meet this growing demand for STEM knowledge through these new programs. Seeing a small group of students who are building and testing rockets to complete missions or transform their ideas into real prototypes is amazing to watch. Zaniac is excited to offer Utah students in elementary and middle schools these types of fun and memorable STEM learning experiences.”

Boy watches machine intently.These latest offerings, geared specifically toward students in 4th through 8th grade, is part of a growing national interest in what are being termed “21st century skills” as a part of children’s education. These types of skills are seen as being vital for the success of these children when they enter the future job marketplace. The program, which runs at a very low student to teacher ratio (approximately 5:1) takes students through the entirety of the 3D printing process from idea development to modeling to final print. The classes meet once a week and were developed to feel more like a recreational activity than what some have come to think of as classroom education. 3D printing classes are offered at Zaniac campuses in Sugar House and Park City, Utah,  and Greenwich, Connecticut. Students take home their 3D printed creations, lending a tangible sense of accomplishment to their program.

The idea behind Zaniac has its roots in its founder, Paul Zane Pilzer’s, graduate education. Having built an interactive machine for teaching on a mainframe computer, Pilzer went on to a career that included software development for education (as well as being an author, professor, White House official, and economist). It wasn’t until he had children of his own, however, that he really began to concentrate on what was missing from elementary and secondary education in the US.

Research and DevelopmentAfter a lot of careful thought regarding how best to address some of these deficiencies, he opened Zaniac in 2012. Parents of the children who came through the Zaniac campus had some interesting feedback, to which Pilzer paid close attention:

“What was surprising was the equal conviction with which parents believed that science, technology and engineering was also what their kids needed to achieve their potential and control their future. They wanted their children to love math and science, and particularly technology. They wanted their children to become self-directed, curious scientists with a love of ‘figuring out how the world works.’ And we quickly learned that we needed to engage students in these subjects to help them learn to the best of their abilities and make learning fun.”

In keeping with this mission and his deep-seated belief in the potential for cutting edge technology to be more than just a thing to be mastered but a technique for learning, it comes as no surprise that Zaniac has readily adopted 3D printing as an offering. It may not be long before this type of recreational 3D printing becomes the arcade hang out that parents actually approve of.  Let’s hear your thoughts on this new STEM program in the Zaniac forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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