July 8, 2011
Welcome back, BYTE. I'm a teacher by trade and a geek all around. Kids in my class might think that's funny, but they benefit from what I get into the classroom.
My latest find: 3D printing for classrooms. I saw it recently at the huge International Society for Technology in Education, kind of the CES for educators. I loved the 3D printers. I knew the kids in my classroom would be blown away by printouts from this thing. And it's not just kid-stuff. More and more consumers are using these devices at home for creating anything from a custom car part to replacing an item that no one makes anymore. Hobbyists use their printers to fix old pinball machines or even create custom fixtures around the house. People are making a variety of objects ranging from fixtures to hold things in place to their own custom iPod cases. Companies are making prototypes of large objects, too. One company I know prints a full-sized refrigerator out! This lets execs see how all the parts fit together pre-manufacturing. I was able to play with a few of the printed materials in the photo below, which I took. Would you believe the plastic crescent wrench in the lower left hand corner actually works? And you don't have to be a kid to imagine how cool it would be to manufacture your own Slinky.
As students take their concepts from mind's eye to physical form, they develop important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts and have fun doing it as they "make to learn." I asked the representative from Dimension, maker of the Stratasys 3D printer, to pause the printing process and let me peer inside. The rep opened the front door so I could snap this picture of a two-piece puzzle game and a pair of pliers -- check out the foreground.
This makes me think of Peter Grimm, an industrial technology teacher at Southview Middle School in Edina, MN., who challenged his eighth-grade pre-engineering students to find a solution to an ill-fitting cup holder for a late 1990s car. Students in that project used these 3D printers to take their CAD drawings and turn them into actual 3D working models. Now look at this. It's the Curry/Cornell Fab@School 3D fabricator. In the lower right hand corner of the photo is a red, hollow image of a human head.
Kids love visuals and they're naturals with technology. Imagine the possibilities of 3D printing in the classroom. Handouts will never be the same. Buzz Garwood is a senior BYTE contributor. He's also a teacher in Southern California. He's the kind of teacher you wish you had. At BYTE, he blogs about edutech, but he covers deeptech broadly for BYTE's reviews and how-tos sections. Email him at [email protected]
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