3D Printing in Educational Contexts

When folks come face-to-face with the 3D printer at the Earl Center, you can usually hear “That’s so cool!”, “What’s printing?”, or “Can I use this? We have a little spiel that gives folks the rundown: Yes, you can print something, we can help you!  Right now it’s printing a map of Wheelock, or a sphinx, a turtle doorstop.

The Wheelock 3D printer in the middle of printing an orange sphinx. The sign next to the printer reads Now Printing: Hatshepsut Sphinx. Two additional red sphinx lie to the left of the sign.

The Wheelock 3D printer in the middle of printing an orange sphinx.

Another question to ask is how 3D printers can be used in educational contexts. In the classroom, and in the real world. Here are a few ways:

Teachers have tangible visuals for their students. Whether students learn better hands on, or use the model to form a visual of their own, 3D printing encourages inclusive classroom learning. For example, we’ve printed labyrinths for one class, and a made a 3D version of a frog skeleton, for another class.

Tangible artifacts can also include historical artifacts, or objects that students can create. Ask Mare, the Assistant Director of the Earl Center, or one of the Earl Center workers at the Service Desk for a demo in Tinkercad. Taking a project from start to finish allows students the chance to see examples of history while building new skills at the same time.

Students have better chances of retaining the information from class if they can interact with the material! There’s no way to go wrong- if you mess up, just fix and print it again. This trial and error process of paper to object helps students develop problem solving skills that are in high demand in today’s workforce. Students also have the chance to design their own curriculum based on what they want to learn.

Looking for some other examples of what you can print for the classroom? Here are a few ideas:

  • Molecules
  • Planets
  • Shapes or objects (Useful for math lessons!)
  • 3D models of student art
  • Historical models or busts (Check out our mini-Beethoven bust!)
  • Replacement parts or cases
  • Name tags (Keep a lookout for some at the Earl Center!)

To learn more about the industry take on 3D printing, check out this video! Closed captions available.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/X5AZzOw7FwA[/youtube]

For lesson plan ideas and more from an education technologist’s point of view, check out Kathy Schrock’s blog post about 3D printing in the classroom.

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