How to use 3D Printing to Engage your Students in STEM Classes
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By now, 3D printing is nothing new in the classroom, and some of its novelty has worn off. And yet, applying 3D printing to STEM classes to help K-12 students develop their problem-solving skills and creativity should never be disregarded. Whether you work with young students or those at the cusp of high school, applying 3D printing in STEM classes can benefit students’ development.
According to research done by EdTech Magazine, using 3D printing in the classroom engages students and enables them to grasp more advanced concepts far more quickly than without it. Additionally, it points out that visualizing abstract concepts found in STEM can help K-12 students find their scientific interests and expand on them. But how can we use 3D printing in STEM classes to advance the curriculum? What kinds of exercises and projects can students participate in to make the most of their K-12 education in 2021?
Break Down Scientific Principles & Mechanics
Principles such as geometry in Math or chemical compounds and atom structures in Chemistry classes can often go over the students’ heads. Thanks to 3D printing, STEM classes that involve scientific mechanics and theoretical concepts can easily be visualized and made more concrete.
Printing different geometric shapes and showcasing what atoms are made of or how physics works can improve your classes’ performance. But most importantly, 3D printing allows students to stretch their creative muscles and learn about scientific concepts by drawing them even before 3D printing. And the best way to memorize those concepts is to apply them in practice.
Facilitate Independent 3D Modeling for Students
While 3D printing pre-print is not as straightforward as traditional printing, your students can still participate in the process to learn more about it. You can find a place in your classroom for software like SelfCAD to teach your students not only about STEM subjects but 3D printing as well, with much ease as it’s user-friendly. It has tutorial features that allow one to record their steps and even share them with us. This is very important as you can record your steps and share them with your students so that they can be able to follow those steps and be able to design their own models. See the attached video to learn more on how this feature works.
Give your students the freedom to sketch 3D models and prepare materials for a 3D print base on whichever STEM subject you are currently working on. They will likely fail at first, and you will have to reassure them of how precious their learning experience really is. It will enable them to pursue a wider range of career paths, including 3D modeling, scientific research, and different print and pre-print-related specializations.
Image source: Unsplash
3. Design Solutions for Environmental Issues
Given that the students, and especially young students, can sometimes come up with unique solutions to issues we’ve struggled with for years as a society. For example, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, floods, and other types of natural disasters can find their way into your STEM classes and serve as individual class projects.
With 3D printing in the classroom, your students have the opportunity to explore and solve different environmental and natural issues very effectively. Your classroom is a safe space for students to be creative and think outside the proverbial box – let them come up with original solutions. Then they can use different sketches and models to print them on your 3D printer and used them for group presentations.
Personalize Math Learning through 3D Models
Mathematics lies at the core of how our world works, and 3D printing is no different from its back-end technology. However, K-12 students often struggle with grasping how math really works, which is why you should make ample use of your 3D printer. You can use it to print cubes, tetrahedrons, projections, and fractions to help your students with the learning process.
It can lead to lessons about mechanics and how machines function, with 3D printed gears as your examples, and teaching your students about mathematics and physics through practical examples instead of dry theory, which will significantly improve their interests in those fields. Likewise, even underperforming students with little interest in Math-based STEM fields will have an easier time passing subjects thanks to your use of 3D printing.
Flora and Fauna through 3D Printing
Regardless of where you are in the world, you can enable your students to learn a lot about wildlife and plant life through 3D printing. Models of animals and plants can be 3D printed and examined by your students to help them visualize the theoretical STEM subjects. You don’t even have to go far from your standard curriculum to include flora and fauna 3D printing in your classes.
Open your biology books and take a look at which lessons are coming up next to get a good idea of what you can do. Your students can also 3D print their house pets, favorite plants, fruit, and other types of flora that could be interesting to their classmates. You can even go as far as allowing them to draw and then print their favorite animals, which they can present to other students. Bridge the gap between artificial 3D print and natural flora and fauna, and your students’ learning experience will be that much better for it.
6. Ideate and Prototype the Tools of the Future
Imagine for a moment that you and your classroom are transported into the future. What kinds of tools do people use there? STEM subjects aim to develop students’ competencies in scientific fields, but they should also enable them to think ahead about their own futures.
As such, you can use your 3D printer for fun STEM projects involving the brainstorming of how the future might look. You can instruct your students to imagine different tools and their applications based on what you’ve studied in a given subject so far. And even if your students come up with impractical tools with no real-world application, such exercises will help them develop creativity. It will place them in a decision-making role and allow them to come up with technology, which you can then 3D print and study together.
Explore How Transportation Works
The younger your students are, the more interested they will be in transportation, or how people can get from one place to another. While not strictly related to STEM studies, transport is still a scientific field worth exploring. Cars, buses, airplanes, and ships all work based on certain technologies and energy, so why not focus one of your STEM subjects on that?
Students will undoubtedly be happy to use a 3D printer to design different vehicles to understand how they work. You can use it either pre-made vehicle assets or take the creative approach and allow students to design completely new and abstract vehicles for 3D printing. Exploring how transportation works are also great for teaching students about traffic regulations to ensure their safety in public.
Paving the Way for 3D Printing in STEM Classes (Conclusion)
STEM subjects have a significant role to fill in K-12 education, but they can also come off as dry and uninteresting to some students. There is no correct way to bring 3D printing into your classroom – any amount of effort you make in that department will be tremendously beneficial.
Even if some of your students are not overly excited by STEM subjects, introducing 3D printing into the fold will boost their interest considerably. Take a closer look at the ideas we’ve covered and see if you can find parallels between them and your classroom. Your students will also have unique ideas on how you can use 3D printing in STEM classes, so hear them out. You might be surprised by what they have to say.
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About the Author
Linda Ferguson started her career in a local company as a content writer 5 years ago. Now, she is the CEO of https://subjecto.com/ thanks to her determination and complete dedication to work. Linda has always been passionate about academia and writing. Besides her busy work schedule, she manages to find time for attending conferences that keep her up to date with the latest news in the industry.