A group of artists, technology specialists, and educators committed to bringing instructional 3D printing tools to K-12 education say they feel learning is most effective when students can actually feel and interact with the technology.
And as of February 2, My Stem Kits will launch a Kickstarter campaign which features their selection of 3D printed objects designed for classroom use.
Co-founders Laron Walker and Hannah Olson say they’ve been working with a group of curriculum developers over the course of the last year to develop this series of educational tools to leverage the power of 3D printing for students.
“Many of us are familiar with some of the other attempts to bring 3D printing into the classroom, from objects uploaded to Thingiverse, to printer companies offering a handful of 3D printable objects that relate to classroom learning, but there has yet to be an attempt this comprehensive,” says Olson. “My Stem Kits is featuring 27 distinct lesson plans within their kits and there are nearly a hundred other ideas they’ve been developing – many of which are ready to go.”
Walker and Olson say they’ve partnered with Florida State University’s CPALMS to create a curriculum written and developed by their team of teachers and content-area experts. A partnership with HipScience also means that that company’s Mantis Sensors have been integrated into the kits to result in a “technological and modern approach to classic scientific teaching.”
The kits include modules like New York Balance – a Lab in a Box kit that allows students to explore the effectiveness of lever arms and build an interactive environment where students can learn about and come to understand complex interactions within simple machines.
The My Stem Kits DNA module allows students to examine the structure and composition of DNA, RNA, and proteins, and it’s built out of interlocking ball-joints, featuring flexible nucleic acid and polypeptide models which can be disassembled and reassembled. The module also includes RNA and amino acid model components for hands-on exploration of DNA replication, DNA transcription, and mRNA translation.
Another module, Windfarm, is part of the My Stem Kits Math Starter Kit, and it allows for experimentation with turbine blades provided in the kit. That module is aimed at helping students understand the complex relationship between surface area, mass, and turbine efficiency.
Yet another module, the Rocket Launch Kit, includes a variety of ready-to-fly rocket components, an adjustable-angle launcher and a pressure gauge to let users examine experimental designs and variables related to rocket flight forces and motion.
“We work on a daily basis with the CPALMS team to ensure that all of our kits exceed teacher expectations. The kits and curriculum are designed concurrently and so they enhance each other and ensure that both products are as effective and engaging as possible,” Olson says. “Through an iterative design process, we determine not only the best design from a pedagogical standpoint, we also ensure that the kit is as economical as possible.”
Olson adds that the company isn’t offering the digital files at this point; they’ll produce or print the objects in-house and mail them out to teachers. According to Olson, the company may release those digital files soon “so that teachers, parents, libraries, and after school programs can print off their files locally.”
While no pricing information is available at this point, the Kickstarter campaign will include that information and specify a number of commitment levels for the kits.
Olson and Walker say there’s also a plan to create an online community of educators who will help complement the product.
Educators say STEM subjects are critical to American competitiveness in the commerce of the future. Have you ever heard of STEM learning tools which use 3D printing to give students a leg up in understanding the technologies of the future? Let us know in the My Stem Kits forum thread on 3DPB.com.