Looking for free resources for 3D printing education? Read our guide to get curricula, lesson plans, videos and materials for your lessons.
The importance of embracing 3D technologies at an early age, understanding the ecosystem and how it links up, as well as hands-on learning with the tech cannot be over-stated. The benefits of cross-curriculum implementation beyond Design & Technology are well-documented. They include new learning possibilities, positive engagement, innovative and creative learning environments, critical thinking and problem-solving opportunities.
Across the Western hemisphere, it is not hard to find 3D printer manufacturers or distributors specializing in education products and services supplying 3D printers and ancillary products. Neither is it difficult to find inspiring student stories within this geographical region of how 3D printing has transformed their learning experience and inspired them to create original and well-thought through applications of the technology. This is all very positive momentum… but there’s something really important missing.
3D Printing Education: Teachers are Most Important Part of the Equation
One vital group within the 3D printing education equation gets frequently overlooked — the teachers. The people that are directly tasked with preparing students — our children — for the modern workplace. There are fantastic teaching pioneers out on the frontline, excited by 3D printing themselves, and transmitting this passion into their classrooms. Moreover, increasing numbers of schools are buying into 3D technology for the classroom and the potential for facilitating learning activities across the curriculum.
But for teachers, there has to be a purpose behind the potential. Where do they go to find that purpose, particularly if they are not familiar with the 3D printing ecosystem themselves; which, let’s face it, many of them will not be?
The Most Common Traps in 3D Printing Education
Let’s get the issues out of the way first. There are a few.
Notably, if a local education authority or independent school adopts the rhetoric and releases budgets for 3D technology to be brought in, it often happens without a defined strategy. It can, and does, happen that way. The budgetary issues, while not inconsiderable themselves, lead to further considerations — often used as selling points by hardware suppliers — such as safety, ease of use, reliability, and consumable costs. The best advice for any teacher tasked with buying hardware is to test it themselves in a workshop, or if time does not permit, find other users. User forums will throw up the best insight (positive and negative) when it comes to 3D printing hardware.
And then there is the issue of embedding the technology in the curriculum in the most meaningful way. There is no getting away from it; this is not a point and shoot activity, if 3D printing is to be included in the curriculum, then the teachers teaching it need to understand it. This categorically demands high quality, upfront training and planning together ongoing technical support.
3D Printing Education Resources
The following is a list of potential 3D printing education resources. It is not an exhaustive list, and, in most cases, the materials are designed around specific hardware. Nonetheless, hopefully, it provides some useful information and go-to places for teachers and students embracing the 3D printing ecosystem.
Nearly all of the listed 3D printing companies offer rebates and 3D printing resources for educational institutions.
3D Printing Education Resource #1: Tinkerine
The Tinkerine U Platform has been specifically developed to promote application development related to 3D printing for education. The remit Tinkerine U is to specifically provide a toolset for educators looking to successfully bring 3D printers into the classroom. The platform is supported by ongoing “Challenge” initiatives that are designed with students’ learning outcomes in mind and to help educators fully utilize the hardware and software products designed and manufactured by Tinkerine. The aims are comprehensive and focused on the entire STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) curriculum to facilitate responsive learning programs.
Offers for 3D printing education: Courses, Experiments and Challenges from videos to hands-on projects.
Website: Tinkerine U Platform
3D Printing Education Resource #2: Stratasys and MakerBot
Since Stratasys’ acquisition of MakerBot, the company has developed a very specific strategy based on education with curriculum resources focused on every stage of education from Kindergarten through to technical colleges, universities and innovation centers. Their 3D printing education resources include project modules, full curriculums, lesson idea videos and, like Tinkerine, student design competitions. If you are new to the matter, be sure to download the interesting Makerbot in The Classroom PDF for your 3D printing curriculum.
Offers for 3D printing education: Resources for schools and universities, lesson idea videos, classroom tutorials.
Website: Stratasys Education
3D Printing Education Resource #3: Printrbot
Back in 2014, one of the original and consistently open desktop 3D printer developers, Printrbot initiated its own 3D printing learning center. On this basis, Printrbot took a different approach from the beginning and started crowdsourcing 3D printing educational materials from people working on the frontline — in classrooms, colleges, after-school programs, and maker spaces — to produce open and public resources that can benefit everyone. Printrbot created a learning portal that is fully open access and hardware neutral.
Offers for 3D printing education: Projects, videos, tipps, files.
Website: Printrbot’s 3D Printing Learning Center.
3D Printing Education Resource #4: Ultimaker
Ultimaker is another manufacturer of desktop 3D printers that takes its educational responsibilities very seriously. Obviously, like with the others, selling 3D printers is a motivating force. That said, the broad spectrum of 3D printing educational resources that Ultimaker has developed is impressive and covers Kindergarten to college education, as well as supporting less formal education through.
Offers for 3D printing education: Ultimaker Sponsorship “Pioneer Progam”, Courses, Tutorials, Annual Teacher’s 3D Printing Conference (in planning state).
Website: Ultimaker Education.
3D Printing Education Resource #5: Leapfrog
A further desktop 3D printer manufacturer with a keen focus on 3D printing education is Leapfrog. This company offers a slight variant in its approach that pushes the rhetoric out quite powerfully together with specific educational bundles for sale. As well as the 3D printer and consumables, this includes specific lesson plans, tailored to the hardware.
Offers for 3D printing education: Lesson plans for primary education and High Schools.
Website: Leapfrog Education.
3D Printing Education Resource #6: Dremel
A fairly late newcomer to the desktop 3D printer market was Dremel with its 3D Idea Builder. The difference being that the platform has been designed and developed specifically for educational (and home) environments. The emphasis is very much on ease of use, safety, and reliability — wrapped up in a familiar and trusted brand. Dremel also promises educators its “world class support” services. None of this can be overlooked. Beyond these things, Dremel has also developed specific lesson plans and worked in partnership with other organizations to produce 3D printing curriculum resources.
Offers for 3D printing education: Lesson plans.
3D Printing Curriculum: Beyond the Hardware Suppliers
There are a number of other sources of educational material for 3D printing in the classroom available, however. These often come from 3rd party suppliers that have been working with schools for many years and understand the pressures placed on the institutions and teachers. Unfortunately, it still means that sales are the driving force, but in most cases the insight and knowledge from these companies holds tremendous value and they work in partnership with the OEMs to produce viable and useful support teaching resources:
3D Printing Education Resource #7: Pitsco
In the US, Pitsco is a good example of this type of partnership. The company, founded in 1971 by three teachers, more recently teamed up with 3D printing company Afinia. As a result, they have developed STEM curriculum materials for K-12 schools, to support the successful implementation of 3D printing in classrooms all over the country.
Offers for 3D printing education: 3D printing curriculum materials for schools; special 3D printing for schools package.
3D Printing Education Resource #8: SeeMeCNC
SeeMeCNC’s educational initiative, SeeMeEducate is yet another valuable resource. SeeMeEducate aims to support innovative and stimulating ways of teaching STEM and creative subjects through a 150+ page curriculum for teaching 3D printing in the classroom —from the basics, like software and machine operation, through to developing hands-on skills with a 3D printer. The curriculum materials have, once again, been developed by teachers and are open and updated often.
Offers for 3D printing education: 150+ page 3D printing curriculum, community.
3D Printing Education Resource #9: Black Country Atelier
In the UK, Black Country Atelier (BCA) has developed a specific program built around developing skills and includes 3D printing. The Smart Product Design and Manufacture Technical Award is recognized as equivalent to a GCSE qualification. Moreover, BCA offers dedicated teacher training courses to support teachers in the classroom, with design and 3D printing technologies.
Offers for 3D printing education: 3D printing courses (UK only) and 3D printing teacher training.
Website: Black Country Atelier.
3D Printing Eduction in Schools: Conclusion
At this point in 3D printing’s timeline, the main take away for educators incorporating and looking to incorporate 3D printing into their curriculum is that there are many options and resources available to them. Just five years ago, this was not the case and that testifies to the progress that is being made and the positive direction in which education is going — aiming to meet the demands of a transitioning workforce in terms of skills, innovation, and technology.
The teachers, on the front line every day, that are bringing this knowledge and experience to the next generation workforce undoubtedly deserve our respect and our support — anyway, we can give it.
License: The text of "Teacher’s Guide to 3D Printing Education" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.