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Kids & Tech
"Need to print this out in 3D now!"
Song lyrics in a post about 3D printing — not tried this before, but it really couldn’t be more appropriate to my musings this week. And while I am sure many of you will disagree, I reckon I could do worse than Whitney as my muse — have you guessed yet?
“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
I’m sure you can see where I am headed with this already, but as I scribbled some notes the other evening, that first line (with melody) kept running through my head over and over again. I actually had to look the second line up to get it exactly right, but once I had, it occurred to me that beyond the ideological conviction that our children and grandchildren will be the main beneficiaries of the great capabilities and widespread uptake of 3D printing, that second line is even more appropriate within the 3D printing context I inflicted on the lyrics and it is a responsibility that we must take seriously now.
The pioneering developers of the different 3D printing technologies, and their successors, continue to drive forward with incremental improvements and material upgrades, interspersed by periodic larger leaps and this pace of change will continue I believe. However, where we are now, with the entry-level machines offering basic but accessible 3D printers, the opportunities for introducing our children to them, and teaching them how — and when — to use them are huge.
For me, putting 3D printers into schools (alongside traditional technologies, I should add) is vital for the future of 3D printing technology in every way. I cannot overstate how strongly I believe that this course of action is by far the single most positive way forward for 3D printing development and applications.
Putting these technologies into the hands of kids — the designers, engineers, manufacturers, makers, entrepreneurs and consumers of the future — is the best way of ensuring that the technologies take hold in the longer term, both industrially and in the mainstream. It’s common sense. Our 21st Century children are not afraid of technology, and new tech does not daunt them like it does most of us, or previous generations.
In fact, putting 3D design capabilities and 3D printers into schools can bring many cross-curricula advantages, engaging children that are allowed to get hands-on with it, accepting it for what it is, and using it for work and play! Think about it: children are inherently creative from the first time they hold a crayon or spill glue — it comes naturally and is generally encouraged by parents and teachers alike. It’s about expression, ideas and innovation — the exact same qualities that employers are looking for. But then they get to a certain age (around 7) and we start to knock it out of them. But what if we used technologies like 3D design and 3D printing to continue to inspire them in these areas? I believe the pay-off in the mid- to long-term, would be exponentially greater than the investment required to fund this type of initiative and I think it would also go a long way towards filling the engineering and manufacturing skills gap that is currently at critical levels in western countries. It would not happen overnight, obviously, but it would happen.
School budgets are a big issue — I know this from first hand experience and shared experiences of others — but it is vital that a way is found around it, either one school at a time, or at local authority level. The benefits in school now, as well as further down the line as it becomes an everyday tool, surely cannot be overlooked and drowned out by budgetary restraints. I am currently working my way through this bureaucracy at my local school, I am determined to get a positive outcome even if it takes a while. I will continue, but it really shouldn’t be this hard.
Government-level interest would be good, and I think 3D printing has now been noticed in some quarters, but to be honest, my faith in politics is at a very low ebb, my faith in politicians even lower. They try and “say” the right thing, but rarely “do” anything. This is something that needs to happen at the grass-roots level — right across the board.
Vendors and industry need to take some notice too. They can and should get involved with schools in greater numbers and even as apprenticeships continue to make a come-back there is room for more growth here too.
Finally, I do apologise if you spend the rest of the day with Whitney playing in your head ;-)