When it comes to 3D printing, there are limitless ways in which the technology can be utilized. Businesses, hobbyists, and educational institutions are beginning to fully understand some of the potential benefits that the technology can provide. 3D printing has, and will continue to, provide a means for inventors, innovators, and visionaries to easily fabricate prototypes for designs which they could only depict via 2-dimensional drawings and diagrams in the past. 3D printing will certainly spur on new inventions, simply because inventors now have a way to test out their ideas with tangible models and prototypes.
Where 3D printing has yet to really make a huge impact, but provides an ample amount of opportunity, is within educational institutions. These range from elementary schools to high schools, universities, and maker spaces around the globe. One reason that 3D printing has been quite slow in making its impact in these institutions is simply because of the lack of knowledge of the technology by the decision makers in charge.
Because the technology is so relatively new, the greatest impact may come via the introduction of 3D printing into public and private grade schools. The younger a person is, the easier it usually is to introduce new ideas and methodologies. This is why young children are so quick to learn new languages, when compared to their older adult counterparts. This is what makes elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools the perfect place to begin really introducing a curriculum based around 3D printing.
Just about every subject within a school curriculum could benefit from 3D printing technology. We will outline a few of these below:
3D Printing in Math
We have already seen many ways in which 3D printing and mathematics have converged. Most commonly it has been used to help students envision graphs and mathematical models. Some students have a difficult time grasping numbers and diagrams that they can only see on paper. This isn’t a learning disability, but rather just the way that some of our brains function. 3D printing helps those students who have a more difficult time envisioning equations, elaborate graphs, and complex mathematical models to more easily see them through tangible representations. Most importantly though, 3D printing brings a “cool” factor into a subject which could normally be quite boring. The Simon Foundation has an excellent video on this.
3D Printing in Geography/Geology
3D printing is an excellent way for students to better understand geological formations on a scale that is not presentable through 2-dimensional images. We have seen many interesting 3D printed geological forms come to the aid of those studying geography and geology. 3D printing has helped researchers land a shuttle on a comet, by aiding in picking the best possible landing spot. We have also seen a man 3D print earthquake data to help him better compare a recent quake in California to those experienced in the past. In addition to this, companies have been using 3D printing to better understand the cause and effect of oil/gas fracking. We live in a 3-dimensional world, so having a chance to envision the geography and geology that we are being taught using a 3-dimensional tool would obviously be the preferred option.
If writers of textbooks can understand the importance of 3D printing and want to integrate it into the lessons, then they could include files for 3D printable models with each chapter in their books. This would provide for a fun, educational experience for students and teachers alike. Imagine printing out scaled down models of certain mountain ranges, rivers, canyons, etc. It would be a way to give kids a hands-on look at famous locations around the world without having to actually be there.
3D Printing in History
History is probably the subject that has the most to gain through 3D printing technology. Museums all over the globe are finally beginning to see the potential that 3D scanning and printing can have on not only making replicas of ancient artifacts, but also backing them up and providing a more hands-on feel of them. Previously, when you were to visit a museum, you could “look but not touch” the artifacts. Now with the availability of high-end 3D printers and scanners, replicas can be touched, and many of these replicas are virtually indistinguishable from their real counterparts. Now imagine if every history class had the ability to 3D print replicas of artifacts from a massive library of downloadable STL files. Every classroom would now have access to museum artifacts from the luxury of their own school.
Again this is much more exciting than reading chapter after chapter in a textbook, with many students losing focus and not comprehending what they have read. Being able to relate to an object in history goes a long way in making that history lesson much more interesting.
3D Printing in Art
Art and design classes are surely going to see tremendous effects of 3D printing. The technology will open a whole new realm of possibilities for art teachers. Lesson plans could expand to include 3D design, and become much more interesting, with students being able to bring their designs to life via 3D printing. No longer do we have to rely on 2-dimensional screens in order to view 3-dimensional models. Comprehensive projects could be taken on, on a national or even global level, with the ability to share 3D printable art design with anyone, including other schools in the world. Classes in New York could work on projects with classes in India, and then 3D print their final results in both locations. There are many unique forms of art that have come about in the past few years through the use of 3D printing, but we have not even begun to scratch the surface of what is possible.
3D Printing provides a brand new method of creating art. With 3D printing available in art classes around the world, our future artists will be the ones to really help the technology reach its potential in all of the different fields of art out there.
3D Printing as a Tool
3D printing doesn’t only provide ways of learning different subjects, but if done correctly there could be lesson plans built specifically around 3D printing in general. It is a learning tool, one which will only continue to evolve, and continue to provide benefits beyond standard educational curricula.
We are living in a realm of new technology, which includes that of 3D printing. Schools seem to be stuck in the past, presenting information to students in the same way as previous generations did. While new technology can be quite scary, especially to those older generations who have a tendency to be less keen on changing their ways, changes need to be made, and the introduction of 3D printing into schools is one of these that should be taken into consideration by every single school in the world.
There are several companies trying to make inroads into the 3D printing curriculum space, and more of this is needed. The other thing holding the technology back in a lot of schools is the simple fact that schools work on small budgets, and 3D printing is not something many people are very familiar with. When it comes to budget decisions, those unfamiliar with a technology are more likely to vote it down. Because of this, there needs to be more initiative taken by state and federal governments, in educating these decision makers about the technology. President Obama has taken a lot of steps in trying to help create more buzz around 3D printing, but more will be needed, with a focus toward education.
What do you think should be done to help 3D printing make its way to more schools around the globe? Do you think enough is being done, or is more needed? Discuss in the 3D Printing in Education forum on 3DPB.com.