There is a well-known skills gap in the UK, with employers in pressing need of people with scientific skills. We need to change the way we teach science to try and encourage young people to choose a career in this field. 3D printing may offer the answer, with a potential education revolution in the making.
Scientists have been quick to notice the potential of 3D printing, including both archaeologists and paleontologists no exception. Writing for Tree Hugger, Megan Tracy explains the reason that 3D printing took off, with dinosaurs the unlikely instigator:
“Dinosaur models in museums are rarely real bone; it is too fragile. most of them are made by clay modelling, molding and casting. It can be hard on the original fossils, it's expensive and it takes a lot of time. But this is changing now that palaeontologists are printing out dinosaurs and other fossils. Scientists are 3D scanning the pieces of bones and then virtually building a model of complete bones, which takes much less time and money and the real fossils get to stay safe and preserved.”
Teaching Science to Future Generations
Science teachers have always faced an uphill struggle when trying to teach concepts to young people. Textbooks are often old, using stale language and old-fashioned ideas. 3D printing might be able to make kids sit up and pay attention.
The children of today will be the first generation to use 3D printing as a regular part of their everyday lives as adults. Early exposure in schools will put them in good stead for their future jobs. It will also give them a greater understanding of scientific concepts.
Taking Science into a new Dimension
Much of science is theory based, and the challenge for teachers has always been to turn intangible theory into something children can see with their own eyes. 3D printing is a chance to turn a concept into a physical object.
As 3D printing technology progresses, we will be able to expand on many more aspects of science, the way it’s taught and the way it’s learned. For example, if children can 3D print a molecule or a fossil, hold it and engage with it, then the subject will sink in a lot faster and stay there.
3D printing is a relatively quick process, and teachers could incorporate it as part of their lesson planning. They will be able to print example objects in advance and use them in the classroom. At later stages of education, teachers can include students in the 3D printing process itself, teaching them how to create the appropriate design and then execute it. For a generation who may use 3D printing for everything, from food to housing to medicine, this will be an enormously useful skill for them to master.
There are of course myriad other ways we can use it to revolutionise the way science is absorbed by the young. We’re likely to see greater innovation in this field over the coming years.