3D printing is set to have an impact on education, particularly in the field of engineering. Although previously only really taught in colleges, staggering advances in 3D printing technology are offering secondary schools a chance to get in on the act.
Boys and girls hungry to learn about engineering now have a growing opportunity to learn the practical side of things. Principally, they have a chance at hands-on experience that was once impossible. With the relative low cost of entry-level 3D printers (which can range from around £500 to £1000) schools and education bodies are seeing the potential of acquiring them. This in turn will get students enthusiastic about STEM fields.
As Helen Knight writes in The Engineer:
“By allowing them to rapidly design, build and test their own objects, the technology can give young people an insight into engineering and technology that a picture in a textbook or words on a whiteboard cannot. As 3D printing has become more widespread, and more affordable, the technology is increasingly being used in secondary schools, and even some primary schools.”
The government was quick to see that 3D printing is one of the best tools for young people to enhance their abilities in the fields of STEM and design. As far back as 2012, the government was initiating schemes and projects in order to help schools across the country get greater access to 3D printers. They encouraged teaching colleges to put together a plan on using 3D printers in the classroom.
A report from 2012 about the 3D printing project was funded by the Department for Education. Its aim was to explore the potential for using 3D printers to enrich teaching across STEM and design subjects. Schools were asked to explore innovative ways of using the technology to help teach more complex scientific and mathematical ideas.
With the government pushing Britain to become a 3D printing leader post-Brexit, there are further talks to bring 3D technology to the forefront in UK secondary and primary schools.
Not Just STEM and Design
It isn’t just STEM and Design where 3D printing in schools can have a positive effect.
History is a good example of how 3D printing can get students far more engaged and excited. The British Museum and Natural History Museum are both beginning to 3D scan artifacts from their collections. By making this data freely available for download, the aim to is to revolutionise history teaching across Britain.
Children learn better when they are able to see history as a living and animated subject, with access to objects they can touch and feel. With many schools unable to loan artifacts from museums, 3D printing them is the most cost effective way of providing access.
Geography is another subject in which the advent of 3D printing will have a massively beneficial effect. Children will learn from interactive maps, and secondary school children can access 3D printed models of geological formations.