How 3D Printing Can Revolutionise Educational Systems

Right now, in schools all over the world, teachers are training tomorrow’s designers, scientists, and problem solvers. The problem with educational systems though, especially in countries like India, is an unnecessary focus on theoretical learning as opposed to the practical application of knowledge.

3D printing technology can change that. 65% of all people are visual learners — this is a statistic that should be addressed, more than ever, in schools.

Learning by doing has always been acknowledged as the best way to grasp concepts. With this technology, students can learn by doing, and by making.

Penrose Triangle — 3D Printed

Playing By Numbers

Teaching children how graphs work and how certain mathematical figures look in real life would help them grasp basic concepts much faster than they would when all they have are 2D diagrams.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

There are software packages that teachers can use to turn algebraic equations into 3D structures. They can then print these in low-cost plastic, so that their students can hold, examine, and even take it home if they want to.

Tangible representations of equations and mathematical models, and the “cool” factor that is associated with 3D printing could also give this universally dreaded subject a much-needed facelift. The technology stands to genuinely enrich classrooms, by giving teachers unique ways to show their students the creative, beautiful side of mathematics.

Understanding Systems And Reimagining Cityscapes

Sometimes, a child is born into a low-income area and is denied quality education because of it. With 3D printing, this doesn’t have to be the case. Even if the school can’t afford a 3D printer for every classroom, a single machine will still take the teaching to the next level.

Teachers could create models of biological systems to show their students — the cell, heart, brain, circulatory system, it would all be so much easier to explain. A model of the brain, for example, could be printed to show neural activity and the different cortices of the brain in different colours.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The best part — these models would be cheaper to print than to buy in the long run.

Students who are interested in engineering and architecture could use the printer to construct buildings and whole cities, to get an immediate understanding of how textbook theories work in real life. They would ordinarily spend hours manually mocking up their designs. With 3D printing, they could use this time to iterate and improve on them instead.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

An Idea In Hand

When it comes down to it, there’s always something to be said for a tangible representation of page-bound or screen-bound theories.

Experience and theory need to be finely balanced in order for students to make the most of their classroom. This has become increasingly difficult with the rise of the internet, which has led to students spending more and more time in a virtual learning space. 3D printing can put learning back into their hands, by connecting reality and computers in new and innovative ways.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

They could print molecules to study the different types of chemical bonds, historical artifacts and fossils for closer examination, miniatures of graphic designs, topographical or demographical maps for geography — there are almost no limits.

Learning To Make Mistakes

Forerunners in the 3D printing industry envision a 3D printer on every school desk, to teach students that they can create anything that they imagine, moving parts and all. And that if it doesn’t work, they can just go back and try again until it does.

“The make it again part — that’s the powerful part,” says Bre Pettis of MakerBot Industries.

Imagine, Pettis said, if children had 3D printers instead of Lego bricks. They could make their own blocks and miniatures, iterate on designs as fast as they want to, and they’d grow up believing that they can create anything that they put their mind to.

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