3D Printing in K-12 Education – Inside 3D Printing Conference


3D printing has been around for three decades, but only recently has the cost of 3D printers been low enough to think about putting this technology in classrooms. Now a partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia, Univeristy of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville has led to the creation of CED (Commonwealth Engineering and Design) Academy at Buford Middle School, a new type of school built specifically around project based learning with the help of new technologies such as 3D printing in K-12 education.

The new program, which opens this August after a $3 million renovation, will have one 3D printer for every 4 students in a classroom, but that is just the beginning. As Glen Bull, Gavin Garner, and Greg Lewin from the University of Virginia put it, “The challenge is to find a curriculum to go with it.” Speaking at this week’s Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York, the trio emphasized that, “You can’t just take a 3D printing lesson plan and drop it into a middle school and say, ‘here you go.’” And this is why the involvement of University of Virginia is so important.

Faculty and students from UVA’s Schools of Engineering and Education are working together to develop and test new curricula for critical STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education that makes use of 3D printing. One of their first successes was a project in which middle school students designed and built a fully functional speaker. Teams were broken into two halves – one to design and test a high frequency tweeter and another to design and test a low frequency woofer – and then at the end of the project the two teams were forced to integrate the two parts into one integrated speaker. In another project, currently still in a pilot stage, undergraduate engineering students are challenged to program a computer controlled pen that was made with a 3D printer.

Overall, the speakers were both optimistic about the future of 3D printing in the classroom, especially the availability of various funding sources, but also cautionary that curricula are difficult to develop and take a lot of time and testing. What is clear is that the Commonwealth of Virginia is taking 3D printing very seriously, and that they are leading the way in 3D printing education.
/Authored by Brian H. Jaffe, founder of Mission St. Manufacturing and contributor to On 3D Printing/



07. Aug. 2013