“Engineering is the machine that drives human civilization, and today’s students are the ones who will power that machine in the future.”
The field of 3D printing will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the manufacturing industry as the technology continues to evolve. Less mentioned however, is the influence it could have on students if integrated into classrooms across the United States. Technology education programs throughout the country are currently working to bring affordable 3D printers – such as those produced by RapMan USA and MakerBot – into their classrooms in order to offer middle school and high school students more hands-on learning experiences. Students participate in assembling the manufacturing machines, and then utilize them to output prototypes from designs they’ve developed in CAD programs. As students are able to follow through from design to prototype to testing, the technology offers them a unique opportunity to mimic the real-world process engineers and product developers go through when bringing a new product to market. Additionally, students are given the chance to collaborate with one another as they problem-solve and can flex their ability to innovate and be creative while learning.
By introducing 3D printers into classroom settings, educators are looking to motivate and inspire their students to pursue careers in fields including mechanical engineering and applied mathematics. Projects that involve 3D printing facilitate learning in an immersive, fun manner, encouraging students’ personal investment in their science, math and engineering coursework. They also provide context to their studies as students have the ability to learn through hands-on experiences and can process concepts faster than if they were just reading.
The objective in integrating project-based learning opportunities such as those afforded by 3D printing is to provide American students with a quality education that will better prepare them in engineering disciplines. Organizations like the STEM Education Coalition see these educational initiatives as imperative to “enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace” and advocate for greater adoption. (stemedcoalition.org) In comparison to other countries, only a small percentage of American college students are graduating with majors in engineering. The only way the U.S. will be able to maintain a competitive advantage in these fields is if they invest in and train students early in their education. 3D printing offers a solution to this challenge by offering unparalleled educational value.
Review by: Kristin McNally
3D Printing Brings Designs to Life
By Gary Lacey, published in Technology Education