How 3D Printing is Growing Interest in STEM Curriculum

This week’s article is part of our series on ‘Education and 3D Printing.’Published by Kevin Murray.

In America, the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are in dire need of young professionals. Baby Boomers currently hold the highest percentage of these positions, and as they begin to retire, the urgency to find replacements drastically increases. A problem we currently face is that a growing number of students are not interested in these kinds of classes.

According to the US Department of Education, only 16% are proficient at math and interested in a STEM career. Living in an era of constantly evolving technology and instantly accessible information means that the STEM related career standards of the past are no longer acceptable. In order to raise the bar higher, school officials need to find ways to inspire the younger generations early on.

Students as Makers

Organizations like TechPoint Foundation for Youth are testing ways to get kids interested in STEM paths by giving grants to select schools in an effort to help incorporate 3D printers into their curriculum. Students at Creekside Middle School in Carmel, Indiana, one of the recipients of the grant, have connected greatly with their printer.

This is not just another step to overcome until the next test; they are exposed to real life, hands-on applications of printed objects. In math, as an example, kids learn about graphing a function that uses the x, y, and z axes. They can then apply that function to a 3D printer and see exactly how manipulating one axis affects the creation.

If teachers created uniformity within the curriculum, like what Arden Academy did in Solihull, England, students could experience the synthesis of STEM courses. Arden's project for Year 7 students looked at the chemistry of plastic and the physics of the printer, then using Google Sketch Up, designed "predators" in biology. Being an integral piece of the process is far more engaging than videos or worksheets, especially when the kids are devoting attention to actively seeking out information.

Most schools who incorporated 3D printing into their curriculum claimed that there was a bit of a learning curve. Getting used to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software took some time. Yet, teachers found that quality training, paired with reliable support from manufacturers and internal staff helped greatly expedite their comfortability with the system's workflow.

Local Educational 3D Printing Efforts

Alex Bandar, PhD, Founder and C E O of the Columbus Idea Foundry
Alex Bandar, PhD, Founder and C E O of the Columbus Idea Foundry

Within most cities lie plenty of opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge base. Here in Columbus, Ohio, The Columbus Idea Foundry (CIF) set up a community learning center and maker space geared towards training and providing access to materials used for anything from business and artistry to general hobbies.

As a means of helping those new to 3D Printing technology, people can work with the intricacies of the CAD software on site. After users feel more comfortable, CIF currently has one printer available for hourly use, as well as access to many others throughout the Columbus area. Ethan Dicks, member and instructor at the CIF, has hosted a free 3D printing "meetup" at the shop every second Wednesday from 7pm-10pm for the last five years.

In 2012, MAKE Magazine, the champion of this new tech-DIY revolution, ran a few competitions to see which city around the world could bring the most people together to participate in 3D printing, electronics/programming, robotics, and the like.  From New York and San Francisco, to London and Singapore, 300 cities around the world competed and nobody was more surprised than Alex Bandar, founder/CEO of the Columbus Idea Foundry, when Columbus won.

Columbus and the CIF placed 1st in the world in this meetup competition; 1st in the world for Raspberry Pi (an open source/open hardware electronics/programming platform), and second in Robotics (although the high school robotics team sponsored by the CIF, the Cougar Robots 4251, came in 1st in the world in their own 2600 school competition).  "This is a testament to the innovative spirit and talent of the Central Ohio region," says Dr. Bandar, "and is an example of how this new 'Maker Movement' can reinvigorate the midwest - once the home of the US manufacturing base, and soon to be the home of the US innovation base."

The Future of Education

Education is of paramount importance, especially when it comes to new technology. The ones who will best utilize all of the upcoming advances are the younger generation, as kids quickly catch on to the latest products and know how to access information. Learning how to organize that information will take the guidance of well informed educators. Murphy Company recognizes just how imperative this growth is and seeks to support the community. Whether it comes from providing work shops or partnering with our neighbors at CIF, we are working hard to investigate the best methods for preparing individuals of all ages for the leap into the future.

Interested in 3D Printing? Check out our selection of 3D printers#3DLayers (our 3D Printing digital newsletter), and head to CIF's website to keep up with all of their latest educational opportunities.

#MC3DPrinting #STEM #MCEducation #ColumbusIdeaFoundry #CIF

Dr. Alexander Bandar is a computational metallurgist by training, and an entrepreneur by accident.  Having worked ten years in the field of manufacturing software, with clients from GM to Apple to the Defense Department, he now directs the Columbus Idea Foundry - a community workshop, or "makerspace", which he began as a hobby and is now his full-time career.  Newly relocated to a 65,000 sf warehouse in Columbus OH, the Columbus Idea Foundry houses tools from blacksmithing to 3D printing, teaches classes on the design and fabrication resources available at the shop, and then sells memberships to anyone who wishes to use the workshop as if it were their own.  With 200 members and growing rapidly (of whom approximately half are entrepreneurs), the Columbus Idea Foundry is the world's largest and most active makerspace, and is quickly finding a place in the creative, educational, technological and business ecosystems of Central Ohio and beyond.  Dr. Bandar speaks and consults regularly about this exciting new "Maker Movement", has presented multiple TEDx talks on the subject, and most recently was invited to deliver the Cultural Heritage presentation on behalf of the City of Columbus at the Intelligent Cities Forum in Manhattan.