In the past several years, 3D printing has seen a massive shift in its applications and public perception. While it was once perceived as a mere gimmick, it now sees regular use in many industries around the world. As teachers, we need to prepare students with the real-world skills necessary to compete in the modern job market by using STEM tools. What can 3D printing do to help K-12 learners?
Students are always asking: “How does this apply to me?” or “Why are you teaching me this?” The key to building student interest in whatever subject you are teaching is to demonstrate how the knowledge will help or apply to them in the real world. 3D printers can tie material in your curriculum to real-world problems in countless ways.
If you’re unsure of how to use a 3D printer in the classroom or are not convinced that it’s worth the investment, consider how they can prepare students for a career in engineering and healthcare, among many other fields. Here are some ways that 3D printing can help students solve everyday problems:
Math & Engineering
3D printing is a great tool to support a comprehensive STEAM-based makerspace. Consider, for instance, how it can be used to teach the basics of math and engineering. A great way to inspire students to flex their creative muscles is by presenting them with real-world problems and tasking them with finding a solution.
For example, problems involving infrastructure, such as examining the stability of bridges and buildings, can be assisted with 3D printing — printed scale models can be used to put students’ work into practice. By letting students explore creative approaches to solving problems with 3D printing, instructors can empower students. It truly erases the distinction between the “arts” and STEM subjects.
Some concepts in geometry, such as fractions and area, can be explained through printed models. Teacher Jason Padilla explains, “(Learners) can see that shapes have specific area and take up space.” This helps them to better visualize problems, which can be a great help to kinesthetic learners.
Another difficult topic for some students is algebra. 3D printing can be used to create representations of equations, giving students a chance to see and hold a “product” of their hard labor. Not only is this an exciting way for students to interact with abstract subjects, it can incentivize them to learn the concepts involved. These are just a few of the ways that this technology can supplement math and engineering education.
While 3D printing first began trending as a transformative technology in manufacturing and engineering, the applications of it extend beyond that scope. In fact, it can be used for a number of educational and real-world purposes in medical fields.
Medical professionals across all fields can create models for explanatory/educational purposes. Teachers can utilize this same strategy to explain abstract concepts, and even students can practice creating such models. For example, Justus Harris of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has been using 3D printing to help diabetes patients understand their blood glucose data. In a similar fashion, students can create 3D models to create tangible representations of medical data.
Dissections are a staple in high school science classrooms, but 3D printing opens the door to new creative options. Radiologists can leverage 3D printing to create artificial body parts, such as prosthetic legs, to help people achieve greater mobility and generally improve their quality of life. In the context of a classroom, parts can be printed for analysis and instruction.
Students can even practice creating replacement parts — a more marketable skill than you might imagine. In 2016, for example, 3D printing began seeing use creating artificial bones from an “ink” made out of natural calcium. This is an efficient way of replacing damaged bones because the artificial bones promote rapid regeneration and growth. Equipping learners with these skills can give them a serious advantage, given advancements in the medical industry.
3D printing can become an invaluable skill for students looking to gain knowledge that could make them a valuable asset in the job market. Not only that, it gives them the chance to engage with topics and data in completely new ways. Are there any other applications for this technology that you can think of? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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This article was written by our Guest Blogger Devin Morrisey, who connected with CoderZ via Twitter. Devin writes from his garage in Daly City, CA, stopping periodically to build robot cars with his nephew. He is a stark advocate for technological integration in educational policy.