Shakalaka Boom Boom, a 90’s kids show that picked up the pace in India had something beautiful to its concept. A child would draw a picture in his drawing book using a “magic” pencil, and through some amazing sorcery, the picture would turn into a 3-dimensional thing. The boy would draw anything he wanted and made the best use of his imagination to solve the problems he encountered. Little did the children of that age know how this “magic pencil”, that they all longed to have, was already out there, turning 2D imagery into 3-dimensional living art. This tool, originally created as a machine used only for aesthetics, evolved into today’s 3D printer.
3D printing is slowly becoming an important aspect of how students learn from STEM. This is a tool which they can use to create their own components and build projects that make them some really amazing geniuses. This relationship of STEM and 3D Printing, although relatively newer than the other aspects of STEM, is something that goes beyond how we look at innovation in conventional studies. So what exactly is the scope of this activity in STEM? How can it enhance the students’ skills? Let us find out!
A Boost to Creativity
Imagine yourself drawing on paper. The canvas is yours and all you can do is up to you. Imagine the freedom of creativity when there is a blank canvas in front of you. Now imagine yourself drawing on it and preparing a picture that is ingrained within your thought after hours of imagination, thinking and, to some extent, problem-solving. This picture serves as a testimonial to your learning curve and how you have learnt to imagine and learnt how to enjoy turning your ideas into reflections on a two-dimensional surface. We all know the utility of drawing and enjoying drawing at the same time. Now imagine the same alluring activity in 3 dimensions. Imagine the same freedom to create strong, tangible objects. Isn’t it awesome in its own right?
This is what 3D printing brings to us. It is nothing but a canvas for the mind, where we make tangible objects and not mere reflections of our imagination. This is the activity that shall transform your ideas into reality, literally.
Designing and Learning
While it is a canvas to create whatever you want, 3D Printing is indeed more than just that, as far as students are concerned. This implies that it has far-reaching outcomes in one’s learning curve than what might meet the eye. A blog post by Maker’s Empire tells us how students have been creating, designing and learning using 3D printers in their classrooms. Some of the most inquisitive ones appear to be the ones which are the most innovative in their approach. For example, students designed structures using 3D printing which can withstand natural disasters. This project in its own right can make it easy for us to see how such a topic can help us intertwine various subjects and how students can end up studying various topics in one go. Solution-framing for such problems is hence also one way to make interdisciplinary solutions available. We already know that an interdisciplinary approach is always preferable and how life becomes easier with it.
Many such examples can be found in the aforementioned blog and a few more are mentioned below:
Learning about Simple Machines
We are all familiar with how students have to study mechanics and how they look at many examples of pulleys, levers and other mechanisms. 3D printing enables them to have a better off approach and they can now 3D print and design their own mechanisms and enjoy learning, hands-on.
Exploring Helmet Safety
When students were completing a research project about how nanotubes make sporting helmets more effective, they used 3D design and printing to model the nanotubes. Nanotubes, as the name suggests, are very tiny structures that require powerful technology to be viewed. So with 3D printing students could create large scale models to discuss and visualize how nanotubes can make sporting helmets safer.
Understanding How Transport Works
Students investigated the different modes of transportation people use. They then researched the environmental impact that these different types of transportation have. To take their learning further, students were asked to 3D design their own car. They used what they had learned about transportation to design their own unique car.
Apart from designing, solving and innovating 3D printing can make students know more and more about programming and learning how to integrate their said projects in robotics, electronics, etc. We need to understand that subjects and activities covered in STEM are more than what appears on the surface. We need to read between the lines, and figure out how to actually make the best out of the theory learnt, the projects made and the objects printed.
3D printing not only makes it easy to learn, but it also makes it a fun activity altogether. It is time we acknowledge this activity and make the best out of it to make better humans, who are more resourceful altogether.
In A Nutshell
3D printing is an activity that makes the best out of imagination, creativity and designing. It enables students to have sharper skills and makes them the human resources that they deserve to be for a better tomorrow. STEM and 3D printing go hand in hand and make the pedagogy a more efficient system for the students altogether.