How to Jumpstart Student Passions for STEM with 3D Printing
When the latest technological advances make their way into the classroom, it can be an exciting prospect for both educators and students alike. The Apple computer found widespread acceptance in education in the early 1980’s, and today many primary school classrooms are filled with Chromebooks.
A recent trend in STEM education is in bringing the use of 3D printing technology into schools to fuel a passion for creativity and build valuable workforce skills.
3D Printing Creates Engaged Students
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students may have some specific abilities, but they are not necessarily engaged. In fact, a recent study of STEM students by ACT found that this particular class of students has challenges with motivation and success which could be tied to the current education system.
The level of interaction that comes from having a 3D printer in a classroom creates naturally engaged students. Students are able to draft designs or complete assignments and then have those ideas created in real time in the classroom. This helps students see the fruits of their work and appreciate the possibilities for the future. Put simply, 3D technology makes learning interesting.
The theory that students learn and create at a higher level isn’t a new idea. Some of the most innovative creations were born as a result of this type of learning as opposed to academic training. This prompted the development of the constructionism theory, which is used by an innovative training program promoting 3D printers in classrooms, called FabLab@School.
3D Printing Teaches Valuable Job Skills
The use of 3D printing in education is providing students with some valuable job skills, and they are not all in the STEM field. While students are getting real time experience designing and creating complex objects, other surprising benefits are surfacing as well.
Students are learning to collaborate on difficult projects, which can be a challenge for some in the STEM field. Many students become motivated to work on projects outside of school, allowing their natural curiosity for the field to take them to new places. Also, some schools have had students that are well-versed in 3D printing technology train and teach the younger students, preparing them instructional and management positions in the workforce.
Popular 3D Printing STEM Lesson Plans
The schools and classrooms that have brought in 3D printers are providing students with incredible opportunities. As some educators aren’t sure where to begin, MakerBot Learning Team has even posted a valuable collection of 3D printing lesson plans. A few examples are:
- Science students can explore Earth Science concepts with a cutaway Earth model, using individually printed 3D pieces depicting the Earth’s layers.
- Technology students are tasked over five classroom sessions with creating a complex freight car & train system using basic CAD designs.
- Engineering students are challenged to design and build their own structures, such as a bridge that will then be weight tested.
- Math students can play a fun 3D game with fractions, where they learn while filling up a 3D printed beast’s belly.
Technology has many applications in education and the classroom, particularly with STEM education. 3D technology is beginning to provide some students with valuable motivation and skills that will better prepare them both for higher education and the workforce.