Technology is making our classrooms and education system an increasingly digital (or paperless) world, but 3D printing offers a way for teachers and students to connect this virtual world with the physical by creating tangible objects. Whether you’re teaching art or science, this new generation of hardware is making it possible for students to conceive, design and make things that can educate by engaging the creative minds of students – no matter where in the world or what their background.
Schools have traditionally struggled to justify the cost of fully equipped design and technology labs, which has made encouraging the level of creativity 3D printing can evoke a challenge for many teachers. These larger-style labs also require constant supervision by staff and teachers in order to prevent any accidents – another fear for many in the education system. However, 3D printing has the potential to change this perception and experience for students the world over.
Over the last few years, 3D printers have become significantly more affordable for schools, not least because they offer an all-in-one package for increasingly squeezed academic budgets. Even more importantly, many 3D printers have become safe enough for even young children to use – for example our own Robox features a lid that automatically locks to keep younger users from touching its heated print bed or melted plastic. This increased safety means that lessons of creative design using 3D printers could be offered as early as Key Stage 1.
New technologies can pose new problems for teachers, as they struggle to keep up. As such, it’s important that this new generation of 3D printers for schools are user-friendly and easy to use. In our own case, that’s why we built Robox so that people can start printing in just a few clicks. Despite the challenges facing the adults in the classroom, in fact most children are now computer-literate enough to understand the fundamentals of computer aided design (CAD).
There are already tools online available to help teachers (and their students) to take the first steps into designing on a 3D printer, such as TinkerCAD (which is free for students). This allows children to simply click and drag to build their designs, then go on to quickly print them to see if they actually work. These tools mean a student to create 3D printer-ready objects for themselves, beginning to bridge the gap between a child’s imagination and what they’re able to create.
The beauty of all these features is also that it makes 3D printing accessible to anyone. For example, students with dyslexia or other learning difficulties are able to engage with lessons fully and create the object they imagine. When a person struggles with traditional learning skills like reading and writing, the key to success is often found in alternative methods to help with comprehension and inspire creativity.
There is a huge opportunity for 3D printing to offer teachers a new way to engage any and every student, no matter what their own challenges or their ages are. That’s why we’ve partnered with Kitronik to bring 3D printers to 5,000 classrooms in the UK. I believe that 3D printers should be usable by kids of all ages so that pupils have the opportunity to learn and realise their creative potential.
Chris Elsworthy is the CEO of CEL and creator of the Robox 3D printer.
Read more posts like this from Chris and other guest bloggers on the TCT Blog and visit CEL Technologies at TCT Show + Personalize at the NEC Birmingham, September 30th-October 1st (Hall 3A, Stand C25). REGISTER FOR FREE HERE.