3D printing is making an impact on our lives, whether we realize it or not. Many of the products we buy today originated from 3D printed prototypes which allowed their creators to more thoroughly examine the positive and negative aspects of their creations before bringing them to market. Without a doubt, in the coming years, we will only see 3D printing make a greater mark within our society, culture, places of work, and, most importantly, educational institutions.
There is one problem though; today’s educators, for the most part, are relatively unfamiliar with 3D printing. Sure, there are those exceptions to this fact, but the vast majority of teachers and school administrators have never seen a 3D printer in action, first-hand before.
One man, named Philip Cotton, wants to change this, and is taking as many steps as possible to do so. While most teachers are just now beginning to hear about 3D printing and the potential that it can provide for students, Cotton has known of its great promise for quite some time now.
Cotton is a product design teacher at Ladybridge High School in Bolton, North Manchester, England. He teaches students between the ages of 11 and 16, and has been doing so for a while now. He also happens to have won the 3D PrintShow Educational Excellence award for the past two years, has run 3D printing workshops for the University of Manchester, and has consulted for the BBC on ‘3D printing in education.’ While he’s not teaching his own students, he is busy advising other schools and teachers about the benefits provided through 3D printing. Currently he also holds the position of Educational Ambassador for BEEVERYCREATIVE.
As for Cotton’s current curriculum, he recently had his 15- and 16-year-old students design and 3D print lamps as part of their final assessment for their technology exam qualification. These students, however, are not new to 3D printing whatsoever, thanks to Cotton’s incredible system of teaching them.
“I have taught these students since they were 11 (5 years) and introduced 3D printing to them about 3 years ago,” Cotton tells 3DPrint.com. “They used 3D printing to make unique design features as part of their projects. The idea is without 3D printing then many of these outcomes wouldn’t be possible, due to the constraints of over manufacturing techniques we use in school. Therefore 3D printing has helped fuel the creativity in students, as it helps them make their ideas come to life. Without 3D printing we couldn’t make these designs.”
The designs, which were 3D printed using PLA filament, all came out unbelievably amazing, especially when you consider that they were created by students just 15 and 16 years of age. There is a good reason for that though, a reason that other schools around the world should be taking note of.
“The students have had 5 years of CAD training, the first 3 years using 2D design then the final two years using 3D CAD packages to create STL files of their designs,” Cotton tells us. “I teach the students to be creative with 3D printing rather than teaching them how to model and print a nut and bolt. So to give 3D printing a real purpose in design, they have to use it to create something totally unique. Copying other designs is not an option. I found that when teaching students, they create amazing ideas and even when they can’t figure out a way of making it, 3D printing usually saves the day as most radical designs can be 3D printed.”
Cotton’s method of teaching 3D printing to students, starting at an early age, has proven benefits. Not only are they better prepared to take on larger projects once they reach college or enter the workforce, but they are a step ahead of most other students their age. 3D printing is the future of manufacturing and prototyping, so why shouldn’t every school be taking the same course of action as Cotton and Ladybridge High School are?
What do you think about these incredible 3D printed lamp designs? Do you believe that other schools should be utilizing Cotton’s methods of teaching, in order to get their students more acquainted with 3D printing technology? Discuss in the Students’ 3D Printed Lamps forum thread on 3DPB.com.