3D printing in european classrooms? If you think that techies are the only ones using this technology, think again. We here at FreeDee 3D Academy don’t have to look far from our office in Budapest downtown to see how middle school students are using 3D printers. And why not? 3D printers are a natural for STEM education, an initiative that prepares students to excel in science, technology, engineering and math. The future of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education may depend far less on traditional teacher-student hierarchies than on supportive communities of people who have diverse, complementary knowledge and enthusiasms. Knowing how to look up information and to tap into others’ specialties could become the real keys to STEM success. And the hands-on, do-it-yourself culture of the Maker Movement, along with the Makerbot 3D printers supplied by FreeDee Printing Solutions and other tools that animate it, might play a singularly important role in reinventing libraries and schools to work this way.
But this time, a catholic middle school next to the Ukrainian border in Kisvarda has managed to set up the very first FreeDee reference 3D lab fitted with 4 Makerbot Replicator desktop 3d printers and a 3D Systems Sense handheld 3D scanner to support the education of teenagers in the STEAM education including arts and social sciences. To help students and others get past their fear or dislike for science, the director of the school and the teachers strongly favored a connected learning approach. Connected learning encourages people to identify the relevance of STEM topics to things about which they are already personally passionate. In that context, STEM can seem more meaningful and directly valuable, so individuals will be more motivated to learn the associated science.
The St. Laszlo Catholic Middle School in Kisvárda, Hungary provides education for children from the primary and middle school. The school has purchased a set of professional desktop 3D printers and a 3D scanner through a couple of grants a couple of weeks ago, and the innovative technology has already made its presence known. Sixth and seventh grade students in robotics classes have recently designed and 3d printed custom designed mechatronic parts to improve their robots built from Lego Mindstorm kits.
The students and their creative teachers have also created a number of other objects with the 3d printers, such as: replicas of ancient temples, nuts and bolts, geometric solids, stencils, dragonflies, cells, mathematic demonstration models, human and reptile bones, custom parts for a laser scanner, and of course some rings and headbands.
Last year in December, the management of the school collaborated with FreeDee 3D Academy in Budapest to set up 3d professional Makerbot Replicator 3D printers and give one extra Makerbot Replicator 2 to Szt Laszlo Middle School in Kisvárda, Eastern-Hungary. They’ve already made great strides in learning how to create objects with the printer. Laszlo Jura, teacher of IT and Robotics, says the only challenge is designing with 3d printing in mind. He says the trick to an easy print is making sure the object is oriented optimally to avoid unnecessary supports and to give the most stable base for the 3d printing process.
Students in programming and technology classes and the school’s robotics club started off 3d printing trinkets, also made of ABS and PLA, in the school’s STEM lab, which is actually a Makerbot Starter Lab including a 5th Generation Makerbot Replicator 3D printer, a Makerbot Replicator Z18 large format 3D printer, a Makerbot Replicator 2X experimental dual-extrusion ABS printer and the most popular desktop PLA printer, the Makerbot Replicator 2. After learning the mechanics of the 3D printer, they’re now putting their printers to use for a good cause. In the next couple of weeks, they will meet with representatives of the local organization of E-nabling the Future, called E-nable Budapest, an organization with a mission to partner with schools to use 3D printers to print hands and arms for children born without any. It is some kind of charity movement, because a lot of patients in Hungary cannot afford to buy medical prosthetics while their infants are growing.
As featured on the local news, they’ve been 3d printing and building prosthetic arms and hands in the school’s STEM lab. Soon, the students will use the 3d printers to print a prosthetic arm and hand for their principal, who was born without a left hand. Kerezsi director says making an arm-hand combination will take some time and planning and will involve a good bit of measuring, printing, fitting, re-building and re-fitting. But he’s sure the students are up for the challenge.
Some of the students say that may pursue engineering later in life, but for now they enjoy the active learning and using the 3D printer for a good cause. This approach to STEM built around personal enthusiasms dovetails with another trend, the rising interest in the Maker Movement—and in equipping libraries to become community centers for Maker activity. The Maker Movement is an extension of traditional DIY hobby craft culture that embraces digital technologies such as 3D printing and robotics.
Last friday, on the 29th January, the middle school has made an open day for its partner institutes and regional companies of Eastern-Hungary to showcase their brand new lab with the 3D printers and 3D scanner. They have fought about their experiences with the additive technology, how they already have profited from the affordable desktop 3d printers using them to create educational demonstration models. Since the installation of the equipment, they already have printed dozens of colorful plastic models for making the education more interactive and allow children to experience the power of the brand new digital fabrication methods.
After the opening ceremony, the teachers and gifted pupils have shown the audience in 4 different places how they have implemented 3d printing in their educational practice. In the first classroom, participants have thought how a physical object can be made out of scratch: they use free and open-source CAD modeling programs like FreeCAD or Leopoly to create 3 dimensional meshes. After that, they check and clean-up the model to prepare it for 3d printing on Makerbot Desktop 3D printers. With the Makerbot Desktop software, they place the virtual model on the printed and fine tune the printing process to be able to get the best results out of the machines. After an object is printed, they also give it a perfect finish with sanding and painting them. The results? As you can see, they have managed to produce a huge amount of educational models, for some coins. This way, they just saved a lot of money while the innovation drives a lot of attention from the region to the institute.
According to recent information reported by the BBC, experts say we are headed for a boom in 3D printing, citing estimates that the market will top $16.2 billion in 2019. While you may already consider it to be booming just by the amount of press the technology is receiving, the idea is that those graduating with the skillsets currently are going to be melding with the initial need within industry. The timing will come together perfectly with large companies finally being convinced to turn to 3D printing. And as many guidance and career counselors in schools will be explaining to masses of graduates, companies are looking for: industrial engineers, mechanical engineers, software developers, commercial and industrial designers and marketing managers.
A new report from the NMC Horizon Project has identified 12 emerging technologies that will have a significant impact on STEM+ education over the next one to five years.
The Technology Outlook for STEM+ Education 2013-2018 recognizes learning analytics, mobile learning, online learning, and virtual and remote laboratories as technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the near-term horizon of one year or less. 3D printing, games and gamification, immersive learning environments, and wearable technology are seen in the mid-term horizon of two to three years. Finally, flexible displays, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and virtual assistants emerged in the far-term horizon of four to five years.
The report declared over the next two to three years, four additional technologies will come to the forefront: 3D printing, games and gamification, immersive learning environments and wearable technology.
“3D printing allows for more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available to education institutions, including animal anatomies and toxic materials. The exploration of 3D printing, from design to production, as well as demonstrations and participatory access, can open up new possibilities for learning activities.” writes the report. “Typically, students are not allowed to handle fragile objects like fossils and artifacts; 3D printing shows promise as a rapid prototyping and production tool, providing users with the ability to touch, hold, and even take home an accurate model.”
We’ve seen 3D printers in action in STEM education, and we also use one here at FreeDee 3D Academy in our design process. What fields have you seen 3D printers at work? Let us know.