Students assembling their 3D printed catapults.

Students assembling their 3D printed catapults.

Recently, we published an article about the importance of introducing 3D printing into schools all around the globe. It is a “technology of the future,” and without a doubt its use in the workplace as well as at home will only increase as time goes on. While many teachers still are not sure how they can use 3D printers in their classrooms, one teacher in Issaquah, Washington seems to have no problems at all.

Shaun Cornwall, a SciTech teacher of 4th and 5th grade students at Clark Elementary School, was faced with a minor dilemma this holiday season.

“This Christmas I was trying to decide what to get my students,” Cornwall tells 3DPrint.com. “Initially, the typical teacher gifts came to mind – a pencil or a book. But I realized I had this tool that would allow me to virtually make whatever I wanted. My students still see the [3D] printer as a way to print little knickknacks, things without much use. I wanted to show them it can be more.”

So, most teachers would probably decide to print a ruler, a topographical map of the state they live in, or even a model of the school they teach at. Cornwall, on the other hand, decided to take a different route. He 3D printed 50 mini catapults for his class. The design, which was created by Microsoft and made available for free on Thingiverse, was quite the hit with his class.

minicatapult1

“It was important that it had moving parts,” Cornwall told us. “The students were given the parts and assembled them.”

Where was Mr. Cornwall when I was in school? While the 3D printed mini catapults were meant as a Christmas gift of sorts, Cornwall still managed to use them as part of an educational lesson for his students. Besides having the students assemble the catapults, he also created a bit of an educational game with them.

minicatapult2“After they played with them, we asked the students to do some math with them,” Cornwall explains. “We decided to make five shots and record the distance; each student made a chart and collected their data. [They] then calculated the mean, median, mode and range. As a whole class we created a line plot to show our entire class data. It was a very engaging lesson and the students had a great time learning.”

This goes to show that something as simple as a mini catapult could be turned into an interactive, fun, learning experience, thanks to 3D printing and a very creative teacher, Mr. Cornwall. This should be a lesson for those teachers who have 3D printers available to them, but can’t come up with a good lesson plan. It just takes a little creativity and the technology has a way of turning potentially boring subjects into something very interactive. Surely these students learned more about the mathematical concepts that Cornwall taught them, than they would have with a more traditional textbook lesson.

What do you think of this creative idea that Cornwall came up with? Should more teachers be using 3D printers to create unique lessons for their students? Discuss in the 3D Printed Mini Catapult forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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