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How are 3D printers useful in STEM education?

3D Printing

3D printers can be incredibly useful in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. 

American STEM Prep (ASP), the first and only dedicated STEM school located in South Korea, offers the Engineering & Technology (E&T) class as part of their STEM curriculum. The E&T classes are taught in 3 state-of-the-art makerspaces where 12 3D printers are equipped. Let’s follow Flashforge to see how ASP school enables students to engage more closely with Engineering and Technology with the usability of 3D printer. 

3d printer in stem makerspace

▲ASP school and its makerspace

1. 3D printer provides students an easy access to Technologies

A way of getting students into the charm of technology is to enable students to actualize their ideas by using new technological tools, or we can think that the course of using tools to make ideas come true or to resolve practical problems are just the course of experiencing technology. 3D printer in STEM.

As a main part of their E&T curriculum, ASP school established CAD & 3DP printing unit, in which students learn to use 3D design programs (TinkerCAD in Elementary School and progress to Blender in Middle and High School) to design digital 3D models and learn to use 3D printers to make those virtual models to true objects.

The curriculum progresses from basics of modeling and 3D printing in 1st and 2nd grade to more intricate modelling and 3D printing for functional and educational purposes in 3rd to 5th grade. In middle and high school, students are given more freedom to use 3D printers independently and integrate 3D printing into subject lessons. 

stem 3D printer

▲ASP CAD & 3DP class and students

3D printing technology in STEM is relatively simple and that makes it well-suit for school education. The easy access to 3D printer in STEM and 3D printing technology through the CAD & 3DP printing unit can work as a modest technological spur to induce students to come forward with more technological spirits, instilling in students the mindset that if you have wonderful ideas you should and could make every effort to realize them. Moreover, after practically experiencing technology or mastery of technological tools students will be more inspired to come up with creative ideas and innovative thinking.

2. 3D printer helps put Engineering within the reach of students

3D printer in STEM. In 6th-9th grade (ASP middle and high school) ASP students are given more freedom to use 3D printers independently. They are guided to integrate 3D printing into robotics and engineering lessons. As they are able to do simple 3D printing on 3D printers, ASP students in this grade are taught to apply structural/engineering principles when modeling, and then they use 3D printers to test them out, work iteratively to improve their model until getting a professional prototype.

Class case 1: Creating flexi-character toys

ASP students built hinge models on design programs and learn to import vector character images to create their own flexi-character toys. They cut the character images into sections and connected them with the hinges. After STEM 3D printing and result testing on 3D printer, the character would flex slightly on the hinges. Pokemon, rainbow, fantasy creatures and animals were all popular character images imported.

3D printing in stem

▲3D printed flexi toys

Class case 2: Creating a zip line basket

This is an ASP semester final project of 3rd graders, who integrated 3D printing with STEM engineering where they design a zip line basket with project requirements to safely and quickly deliver a 3D printed Among-Us astronaut character down the “mountain” via a zipline. Project constraints include maximum size, 3D printing without supports, and being able to fit the astronaut.

3D printing work in stem education

▲Zip line basket

Except for the above cases, there are also plenty of others, like the project of electrical engineering integrated with 3D printing where students created projects for Hummingbird Bit robotics kit that required a 3D printed part. 3D printer helps put the design and engineering process within the reach of students. Students can visualize and manipulate objects in a way that would not be possible with traditional teaching methods. Also, this lead to a deeper understanding of abstract concepts and help students develop practical skills.

3. 3D printer makes STEM subjects more engaging and relevant

Outside of the makerspace of CAD&3DP unit, some subject teachers of ASP school try to take advantage of the 3D printers and CAD software too.

STEM 3D printing in Social Studies

  • Students designed and 3D printed their own castles as part a medieval Europe lesson. The purpose of the lesson was to teach about castle structure as a defense mechanism and as a part of medieval life in general.
  • Students designed and 3D printed Roman arches to demonstrate their strength in bridge building.

STEM 3D printing in Science

  • Students 3D printed “homes” for meal worms, learning about and taking care of the meal worms was part of a science lesson on the life cycle of an insect.
  • Students grew their bean plants and 3D printed a pot for their plant.
  • Students designed and 3D printed a terrain featuring mountains and bodies of water.

STEM 3D printing in Math

  • Students 3D printed models to demonstrate the Fibonacci sequence, including the golden triangle, seashell and flower patterns.
  • Students 3D printed different geometric designs using 3D and 2D shapes to practice the names and differences between them.
  • Students 3D printed different shapes to demonstrate and practice calculating the difference between volume, perimeter and area.  
  • Teachers 3D printed some props, like advanced 3D shapes with faces made of 2D shapes. Also printed different dice (4,6,8,10,12,20 sided) to help with practicing math calculations or probability lessons.  

3d printer in stem

▲ASP students 3D printing with Flashforge 3D printers

3D printer in STEM allows students to see the tangible results of their work, which makes STEM subjects more engaging and relevant. Jacob Kaminski, the STEM program director and 3D printing coordinator of ASP school, said that “I’ve found students are really excited to design things in CAD programs and then print them, so it really increases student engagement and motivates them to put their best effort into their work and even go the extra mile.”

4. Flashforge 3D printers help in ASP STEM curriculum

American STEM Prep School’s makerspaces with a fleet of 3D printers is an excellent resource for STEM education. “We started using Flashforge printers last year (2022). We have 9 Flashforge Adventurer 3 3D printers - 5 at the Elementary School and 4 at the Middle and High School. We’d love to look at expanding our fleet of Flashforge printers to include the Adventurer 4 3D printers and maybe another line.” Said Director Jacob.

Director Jacob gave recognition to Flashforge 3D printers initially because Flashforge 3D printers are designed with the enclosed chamber and with HEPA air filters inside the chamber that strongly overcome the hidden danger of polluted air during 3D printing course.

▲Adventurer 3 3D printers in ASP makerspace

“Our school and parents are quite concerned about the use of 3D printers. We replaced other sets of 3D printer with the Flashforge Adventurer 3 because they were enclosed 3D printers. Going forward, all the 3D printers that we run in our makerspaces are enclosed. We only run them in the back corner of our Makerspaces with HEPA air filters to help prevent any health problems and assure the parents that safety is one our main concerns.” Said Director Jacob.

Since switching their Makerspaces’ main printers to Flashforge Adventurer 3, ASP has been highly satisfied with them. Director Jacob gave more reasons of approval to Adventurer 3 3D printers:

  • Come assembled and ready to print;
  • Modular repair - especially with nozzle and hot end;
  • Affordable price - especially all 3D printers are more expensive in Korea due to import fees;
  • Reliable printing - good bed adhesion and print quality for price point;
  • Ease of use - flashprint and the adventurer 3 touch screen interface are both intuitive and easy to use;
  • “Especially for students and teachers who are new to 3d printing in STEM, I think it (Adventurer 3) is a great 3D printer to make 3D printing accessible to students.”

Flashforge Writing in conclusion

With some of the best Engineering & Technology curriculum in the world, ASP showcases how 3D printing can be integrated into the STEM curriculum, starting from the basics of 3D modeling and printing to using it in more advanced engineering and robotics projects. The usability of 3D printers has enhanced the learning experience for ASP students in various subjects such as Math, Science, and Social Studies, providing students with hands-on experience and fostering creativity and practical skills that are essential for success in STEM fields.

If you are interesting in purchasing Flashforge 3D printers, welcome to visit Flashforgeshop.


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