Guest Post

A Lesson in the Huge Potential of 3D Printing in Schools

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Chris Elsworthy, CEO of CEL and creator of the Robox 3D printer, writes about the exciting possibilities of 3D printing in the classroom.

Chris Elsworthy, CEO at CELThey say that children are the future — I realise that this is quite the cliché, but it really is true.

The next amazing steps forward in technology, medicine and the arts will be taken by the children of today — it’s only a matter of time before they do something amazing and most likely something that today we wouldn’t even dream possible. It’s because of this optimism that I’m so passionate about the small yet significant role that 3D printing can play in education around the world.

If we accept that 3D printing will play an increasingly large role in our lives in the long-term — as printers become faster, more sophisticated and able to handle more materials at once — then equipping our children with the skills to use this new technology is vital. Most countries are already becoming aware of how important it is to teach their kids at least the basics of coding and computer science. We should now also be combining this with teaching the basics of product creation and design.

While some schools can provide this with expensive design and technology labs, most can’t, and for much younger children most of the equipment is simply too unsafe. Affordable and small scale 3D printers, however, mean that more schools can teach their students lessons in design. Kids need the tools to be able to test their designs — so much of product design after all is prototyping combined with trial and error.

Recently, we partnered with Kitronik who are bringing 3D printers and design kits to around 3,500 schools in the UK. Together we share the aim of inspiring kids by letting them build fun and useful things while developing their CAD skills for the future.

Kitronik project Bull Fight

A New World of Design Possibilities

For example, one project involves students designing and printing their own working speaker system for their phones, something that they would never be able to create with their hands, but that they can create amazing designs for with access to a 3D printer. With today’s generation raised to often not fully consider where most things come from or how they are made, this is a game changer. Suddenly, a whole new world of design possibilities is opened up.

There will of course be challenges on the way, not least when it comes to getting teachers on board. While kids are instantly inspired by the huge potential of 3D printers, the rest of us can often take longer to realise the potential, or even decide what on earth we would want to print. Furthermore, teachers will not use a technology they cannot understand themselves in their lessons.

That’s why we’re so excited about working with Kitronik who provide class-ready kits and lesson inspiration to provide 3D printers with the much needed push into the classroom. Our hope is that as more and more 3D printers get into schools, and therefore into the hands of amazingly imaginative and creative kids, we can help to inspire the game-changing designs of the future.

The next iPhone, the next Roomba, or even the next Robox are out there and ready to make the jump from the world of dreams into reality. This is why I’m so excited about the potential impact of 3D printers in schools, and why you should be too.

About the Author

Chris Elsworthy is an experienced design engineer who, with his business partner in Hong Kong, started the company CEL to design, develop, manufacture and distribute products around the world. Also, veteran of the BBC Dragon’s Den.