headerWhen it comes to anything of value, we all know it’s important to start ’em young. And that’s exactly what one teacher is doing with a completely ‘from scratch’ 3D printing curriculum for his eighth-graders. Spanning one quarter, the new course is designed to introduce students at the middle school in Chesterland, Ohio to the world of 3D printing from A to Z to include what the technology entails, how to work with 3D design software and 3D print, and also exploring the 3D world — and challenges creating worlds of their own.

Known as West G Middle School, short for West Geauga Middle School, this public school in Northeast Ohio is intent on allowing kids on the cusp of heading to high school to have some pretty cool technological moves before they get there, via 3D design and 3D printing. The course is still in its growing stages, with this being the first year of it being taught upon its inception. Obviously though, its developer and the teacher, Sal Passafiume, is having as much fun as the kids are, which is apparent in the comprehensive curriculum outline, which sounds like something many adults would enjoy attending as well.

In learning about 3D design, as well as the design communities popular today like Thingiverse and Shapeways, the students explore and employ TinkerCAD software for their 3D printing projects.

In a nod to what very much may become a reality in the future thanks to 3D printing, the students’ unique and engaging mission (what kids aren’t going to be interested in this?) is “to design a solution for a fictional group of space explorers who are attempting to colonize a new planet.” As if that isn’t exciting enough, Passafiume taps into the types of games kids enjoy these days with creating realities, as he challenges them to take on the authority of city planners for their fictional town humorously called “‘Salville.”

“Basically, I was trying to get them to think ‘big picture’ about how 3D printing might affect the future,” said Passafiume.

“We looked at possible benefits and possible harm. We talked very briefly about things like supply chains, economic impacts, etc. We also discussed how previous technological leaps impacted the world; for example, the automobile industry changed dramatically when robotic technology became prevalent.”

salville (2)The course is impressively comprehensive, covering all sides of the subject of 3D printing, light and dark, good and possible bad, subjectively. West G students are asked to put serious thinking into the project, with some really good questions that they are asked to write articles on, regarding subjects like how 3D printing has the potential to change the world, and what both its benefits and its limits are, as well as what its impacts will be on industry — and whether it has the possibility to put some manufacturers out of business.

Using a contemporary venue like YouTube that engages kids on a constant basis, they watched videos and answered thoughtful questions, as well as each student doing presentations and speaking in class regarding how 3D printing can be used in education. Not only is it a great subject, but it’s a great way for the teacher to take the pulse of the class and find out how they might be interested in learning about 3D printing, and more.

The class has also had a lot of fun with 3D printing at relevant times, like the holidays, setting up competitions in making 3D prints of items like snowmen, Christmas trees, and turkeys.

While they are consumed with the two major projects in creating communities, at the end if there is any extra time left, students are given the task of creating the solution to a problem they might have — like a 3D printed item meant to keep them from the typical problem of losing earbuds.

“Apparently, 8th-graders lose their earbuds all the time, because many of them seem to make something to keep those handy!” notes Passafiume.

Passafiume is obviously a teacher with experience, a fun attitude toward teaching, and a strong grasp on what it takes to grab the attention of students. As the classes progress and evolve, we look forward to hearing more, as well as checking out their 3D prints.

Are any schools below the high school level teaching 3D courses in your area? What do you think of the material they are covering, and the questions they are asked to consider? Tell us your thoughts in the Ohio 8th Graders Take on 3D Printing forum at 3DPB.com.

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