How 3D Printers Transform Learning
July 9, 2021
From Crisis to Opportunity
The quarantine has affected many this past year, but two groups immensely affected were students and the educators that service them. The classroom experience is something that cannot be replicated via Zoom and this puts tons of pressure on educators to try capturing lightning in a bottle so that students would be as engaged as they would be in the physical classroom. I was given a unique opportunity that allowed my students an incredible opportunity, kept them engaged, and allowed us at KCI to offer the same to our summer cohort.
In late 2019 my district’s ASES (After School Education & Safety program) purchased a print farm for my classroom, which basically consisted of one to one printers for my students. When the pandemic hit, the printers had already arrived and were going to be rolled out just before we closed down. In August of 2020 and after some careful planning, we offered students the opportunity to take a printer home and build it virtually with me. This remote build was difficult but each student that had taken one home was successful in their build. Now that we knew it could be done, we came up with the same game plan for our STEAM cohort at KCI.
A Big Leap in Student Engagement
Within three hours of total build time, this cohort had their first print running and some had even taken the initiative to build it beforehand! The impact that this has on any person is huge, but for our students it’s even greater! Now, if we offer it to those students who are socially and economically impacted, like the ones I work with, what will the results be? I received a text from a parent of one of my female students and she mentioned that her daughter told her, “Mom, I want to be an engineer when I grow up.” From not having access to a 3D printer to enjoying the opportunity to personally build one impacted this student in a way that traditional pen-and-paper learning never could.
Having access to a 3D printer changes the dynamics of any classroom. It can be the centerpiece of a project-based learning assignment or the carrot that students will chase during a writing assignment. It can inspire the students that feel school is not for them and it can be one of the strongest tools on a teacher’s tool belt. Just seven years ago a quality printer could cost upwards of $2000, but the prices have changed and now there are several viable options for classroom learning. The printers used in my classroom as well as with the 2021 KCI SPACE cohort are sub-$200 per printer. Below are pictures of various items printed on these types of printers to show the level of quality.
How to Get Started
This project was one of the most difficult professional tasks I have ever taken on, but the payoff for my students was beyond worth it! This past year many of us were asked to learn more about technology than we were comfortable with. Now as we head back into classrooms, some teachers may ask where to go next, and I believe adding even just one 3D printer to a classroom is an incredible step that will continue to grab student’s curiosity throughout the entire year.