One of my favorite questions that I receive from others, is that of “Can 3D printers really be used in schools, and what are some examples?”. For most teachers, school administrators and parents, the idea of introducing 3D printers into the classroom environment is a frightening one. Most of these individuals know very little about the technology, and “fear of the unknown” causes them much anxiety. However, usually when I’m done reciting off a list of practical educational uses for the technology, their next question is, “Which one should we buy?”.
3D printing has really begun making an impact in schools all around the world, but it still remains far from being part of any national curricula. The average middle school or high school that you walk into today, will not have a 3D printer, but hopefully in a few years this will no longer be the case. With more interesting case studies popping up on a daily basis, and additional lesson plans being constructed around the printers themselves, it’s only a matter of time before the majority of schools begin integrating the technology into their classrooms.
For one school in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, they no longer need convincing that 3D printing is beneficial to their students. In fact, they discovered that it is also beneficial to the school district’s budget.
One high honors student, named Tanner Hauger, who currently is taking engineering and manufacturing classes, was able to 3D print products for the school which will end up saving them over $10,000. He 3D printed parts for the school district’s heating units and fire safety door system; parts which are no longer being manufactured.
It all started when Charles Masterbray, who works with the maintenance department for the district, approached the Technology Education Department at the school about some much needed repairs. A small piece of the school’s heating unit had broken, and it was a part which is not available to purchase by itself. As it is a smaller part that makes up a much larger component for the heating unit, only this entire larger component is available as a replacement. Masterbray didn’t feel as though they needed to purchase the entire component, which costs $250, just to replace one tiny broken piece.
At the same time though, the district’s fire safety doors were all beginning to break down as well, due to the deterioration of a part which has been discontinued. In order to replace each door safety system, the district was looking at having to spend $1,000 per door. In all, there are 10 doors that would ultimately need to have their safety systems replaced, all because of one small broken part that is no longer being manufactured.
Tanner Hauger, however, was able to measure the original parts, and use those measurements to created digital models of them in Autodesk Inventor. He then took these digital models and used the school’s 3D printer to create actual working parts, almost identical to the originals.
“This shows how the Technology Education Department is always trying to give our students real world tasks that they can utilize in a job after or during high school,” explained Earl Wingrove, a teacher within the Tech/Ed department. “I also want the community to realize that the school has updated its facility and is using new technology to prepare our students for competitive jobs once they graduate.”
Up to this point, three of the fire safety door systems have been replaced for a measly $6.00 in plastic material a piece, rather than the ridiculous $1,000 it would have normally cost. At the same time, for just $1.00 in plastic printer filament, the broken heating unit was repaired, saving the school $250.
While the school district has certainly benefited from this 3D printer, Tanner Hauger and other students have as well. Tanner had the chance to learn a “real world” application, an application that might just help him secure a job in the future.
So, next time someone asks you if 3D printing is really beneficial to school systems, answer them with an emphatic “Yes!”. This is just one more great example why 3D printers should be in every school around the world. What do you think? Discuss in the 3D Printing in School forum thread on 3DPB.com.[source: herald standard]
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