STEM Education: Benefits of 3D Printing in the Classroom

Made by Makers with Makers in Mind

While highly informative, the majority of information taught in STEM courses can be rather abstract and technical. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of students will find it boring, which can decrease student engagement.

According to Shelley Wright, an educator and Ph.D. student, “Starting in grade 6, student engagement begins to plummet, until about grade 9, when it bottoms out at about 30%.” Wright also states that according to Diamond (1998) “research shows that a boring environment has a more powerful thinning effect on the brain cortex than an exciting or enriched environment has on cortex thickening”. This means that uninspiring learning environments can actually harm a student’s ability to learn.

One easy fix to increase engagement and inspire learning is to introduce into the classroom a 3D printer that the students can interact with. 3D printing along with a project based learning approach can have a variety of benefits for learning outcomes such as:

  • Higher student engagement
  • Enhanced problem solving skills
  • New opportunities for learning
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Increased perseverance through embracing and learning from failures

How It Enhances Learning

According to (2011), “teachers and students will want or have a 3D printer on the desk to help them learn core Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) principles”. This is because studies have shown that new technology generates excitement and engagement in the classroom, and 3D printing in particular can have an astounding impact on a student’s learning capabilities.

They can create, design, and print almost anything. It can help them understand architecture by printing model bridges, chemistry by printing a DNA sequence, geometry by printing pie graphs, history by printing castles and siege engines, geography by printing topographical maps, and so, so much more. The possibilities are truly endless.

Why Failure Is Good

3D printing allows them to use their imaginations and problem solving skills to create what they are learning about. If their printed model (such as a catapult) does not work correctly, it allows them to see why, and continue their efforts until they are successful. According to (Feb 2017) failing is one of the main advantages of 3D printing: “If students could learn to acquire the art of failure then they would able to design better things, design better lives for themselves”. They will learn to acquire new skills and motivate themselves to improve their critical thinking. It also teaches teamwork when they come together as a group to improve ideas that didn’t pan out.

It Promotes Gender Equality

In addition to the learning benefit that it comes with, using 3D printing in STEM education also encourages gender equality towards STEM courses. Both male and female students can conceptualise and print their ideas, fostering a love for technology and learning in the classroom as a whole. Research has shown that female students are much less likely to engage in STEM courses and careers, losing interest from ages as young as 6 and viewing girls in general as less intelligent than boys. According to (Jul 2017), “Recent research shows that by age 6, girls are 20 to 30 percent less likely than boys to see their own gender as ‘really really smart,’”. By using 3D technology to encourage young students (both male and female) towards STEM education and technology, we can teach them that STEM courses are for anyone who wishes to pursue them.

Who We Are

Here at Me3D, we believe in the future of 3D printing and the impact it can make on the world when introduced to students as early as possible. We are passionate about inspiring others, and aim to make a difference in the lives of all students. For more information on who we are, what we do, and the services we provide, please visit us here.