The best way to teach kids about new technology is to have them work on a project that incorporates something they enjoy doing -- whether it's arts and crafts, playing music, or simply hanging out in the playground.
With the help of 3D printing, fifth-grade students in Scituate, Massachusetts were able to design a playground for the town as part of an annual project that requires students to research local and online playgrounds and come up with a proposal to the board of selectmen.
This year, however, the students were able to present more than just a sketch of a playground on paper. Using a 3D printer and software funded by the Scituate Education Foundation (SEF), the students used a MakerBot to design and create a physical replica of their concept.
"Fifth-grade students have been able to access and design 3D playground prototypes using Tinkercad software and a Makerbot printer," said Elementary Technology/STEM teacher Liz Dorgan. "This was a great addition to the spring playground project. They were able to design a project that is realistic and to scale, use age-appropriate CAD software, print a 3D model, and develop 21st century skills."
The 3D printer is currently located at Jenkins Elementary School, but will eventually be shared with all Scituate elementary schools. It will be used for additional projects next year.
"[The use of the printer] combines creativity, problem solving, and computer skills," added Dorgan. "3D printers for elementary schools offer the first step for gearing children toward a STEAM- oriented (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) future. Through a combination of basic 3D modeling and assisted 3D printing, students become equipped with the essential tools to explore a STEAM career."
Not only do 3D printers in schools impart important real-life skills, but their impacts certainly go further beyond education.
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