Educational theorists have long known that there are many different ways to learn about the world around us and an even wider variety of styles of learning for individual students. One type of learning that was often ignored but is now gaining ground is that of kinetic engagement. Rather than assuming that the best way to get information to a student is to somehow create a pipeline of words that can be streamed into their minds, the rising use of manipulables indicates a greater acceptance of the fact that we learn through touch and interaction with physical objects. The difficulty presented is in getting high quality manipulables, especially with the current tightened education budgets across the country.
It should come as no surprise that 3D printing is being used to help address this issue. One group that is focused particularly on the creation of objects to help students interact with ideas is MyStemKits. This business was started with the idea of creating instructional kits for STEM education that can be downloaded and printed anywhere. They have developed dozens of standards-aligned 3D manipulatives and are working to make them available to teachers, parents, and students – making them an ideal resource for home schooling as well.
In an effort to get their consumer-oriented platform up and running, they have worked to develop a Kickstarter campaign that would allow them to make their models available for access by anyone with a compatible 3D printer. They have only just begun their campaign but have already raised $1,472 of their $5,000 goal–and the campaign runs through October 9th. This campaign is off to a rather strong start, hopefully improving upon their first Kickstarter attempt, which did not reach its goal, though they did release digital files of their designs.
There are currently over 50 kits available through their library that are ready for release and they are working to create even more. They also propose to go beyond the provision of the print files by making available lesson plans written by a team of content experts and experienced teachers.
The project was started by two entrepreneurs with complementary backgrounds. Laron Walker is an experienced businessman, technology specialist and electrical engineer who brings 18 years of entrepreneurial experience with his web-development company Sciberus and expertise in the creation of user-friendly online interfaces. Hannah Olson is a 3D printing expert with a background in animation and 3D modeling. Together, they work to ensure that they get the input they need from content and teaching experts all while making sure that their creations are engaging for both students and teachers.
It’s easy to see why educators, parents, and, yes, even students, would be excited about this idea. Imagine that you are trying to teach students about DNA and the way in which it replicates. You could tell them that “DNA imolecules consist of two biopolymer strands coil around each other to form a double helix.” You could go on to explain the fact that it unzips itself as part of the process by which it replicates. Or: you could hand them a 3D printed model that they could examine and that allows them to take the DNA apart on their own. It seems clear that such an interaction would greatly increase the chances that the student would understand the explanation rather than just memorize it.
After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a 3D printed model is probably worth a great deal more.
Let us know if this is a campaign you’ll back in the My Stem Kits forum thread over at 3DPB.com. Check out the Kickstarter campaign video below.