Today, students as young as third graders in Baltimore Catholic schools like Phil Lathroum’s St. Philip Neri classroom are learning how to use 3D printing technology for complex projects like making prototypes for community layouts.
In these projects they study communities and their dynamics in order to find ways to better serve their needs in terms of areas like transportation and park areas for kids to play sports like soccer. They even use 3D printing to build models of mail trucks and delivery vans.
“They’re just absolutely awestruck that something they’ve created on screen on the computer can now become a physical object that they can touch with their hands,” said Lathroum.
With a budding, comprehensive program in the works for school children in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, students of many ages will be benefiting from having digital design and 3D printing integrated into school projects. Administrators and teachers have hit the nail on the head from a teaching perspective, striving to get kids interested by digging in deep to see what they are enthusiastic about, and building on that, literally—and allowing them to think about what they could do to build a better community as well.
“What do you do when they come to school? You take it away from them,” he said.
Lathroum, a technology and music teacher, believes in integrating technology into the school day. “This sucks them in,” he said.
A deeper educational need is being addressed as well, as these young children receive a technological head start. With low percentages of children being involved or skilled in the areas of science, technology, education, and mathematics, the US government—along with other governments and entities worldwide—is heavily focused on turning this around with the STEM agenda.
There are great jobs that need filling, and are simply left with empty seats due to lack of skills. Now, not only are kids learning skills that will help them throughout the rest of their school years and as they eventually enter the work force, they also have modern tools to do class projects. These kids are learning how to do things with incredibly progressive technology that their parents may have only read about up until now.
“These are truly 21st-century skills,” said Barbara Edmondson, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese.
Demonstrating how this program is already working, kids at schools like St. Philip Neri are already learning about how 3D technology is making sweeping innovations in the medical sector. Young students are curious about and taking note of how the technology is deeply affecting developing countries with products like 3D printed prosthetics, which are able to be customized, made, and distributed affordably—an especially good thing for kids who are still growing and have constant need for new prosthetics, as well as other devices that can be 3D printed.
It’s more than apparent that 3D printing and the innovators behind the technology are gifting the world with a wide array of innovations that if not always needed, are usually very beneficial, not to mention entertaining and educational. Often, it’s also true that many 3D printed devices are now being relied on to help make diagnoses and sometimes even save lives in the medical industry.
We can now also reach to the furthest corners of the world, offering self-sustainability with portable 3D printed devices that help diagnose diseases like malaria, assist in offering cleaner water, building much-needed shelter, and more.
Seeing what a 3D printer can do is not only inspiring for adults, but it can also be incredibly inspiring to the innovators of tomorrow: our children. And exposing them to technology and modern skills is indeed needed.
Money was raised for this school program through a capital campaign yielding around $150 million. About one-third is designated for the church’s schools, with cost for the 3D printers at about $250,000. All 49 schools will receive the new equipment and begin participation in 3D printing classes, according to the Archbishop of Baltimore, William E. Lori.
Thirteen schools will receive 3D printers within the Baltimore diocese this week during the project’s initial phase. There are currently 25,000 students enrolled in schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford, Carroll, Frederick, Washington, and Allegany counties.
Do you know of students who have a 3D printing program at their learning institution, or are you currently involved in participating in or teaching one? Tell us about it in the 3D Printers & Classes for Baltimore Diocese Schools forum thread over at 3DPB.com.