STEM Education: How 3D Printers Can Transform Learning
These days, the benefits of STEM Education are no longer a secret and the use of 3D printers in the classroom is quickly gaining the same amount of attention. Today, 3D printers are used to make medical equipment, shoe designs, toys, and even furniture. In the future, they may even be used in our own households, a practice that could reduce waste and pollution significantly. At Mallard Creek STEM Academy, 3D printers are already making an impact on our students’ lives and our STEM lab is buzzing with their excitement.
Students Learn Valuable Skills
So, what does a 3D printer do? Simply put, it designs and creates 3D objects. In a STEM lab or classroom, they are an incredible tool for hands-on activities and Project-Based Learning (PBL). PBL teaches students to use the four C’s: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. Whether students are making interactive maps or a model of the Empire State Building, they are compelled to work together while using those four skills. As a result, they also learn to accept the process of trial and error.
Another benefit is that the presence of a 3D printer motivates active participation in learning. Many teachers are seeing less behavior issues as students become more involved in their STEM lessons. T.J. Hendrickson, a technology and engineering teacher at a junior high school in Minnesota, states that his students “leave their issues at the door because they are intrinsically motivated by the idea of creating their own inventions.”
Creates Meaningful Learning
When students see their designs come to life, their education becomes deeply personal. Andrew Fultz, a U.S. history teacher in Tennessee, says 3D printing makes “the act of creation more real than ever.” It tells them that if they can create a model of something today, they can invent something that helps others tomorrow. For example, students in Clovis North High School worked together to help a fifth-grader play music again.
Education is Student-Led
Although 3D printers are still something new, they are an incredible tool teachers can provide as they watch their students learn and work together without the need of additional assistance. This also allows for teachers to learn about a new technology, one that will assist the inventors and innovators of the future.