10 Ways Teachers are using 3D Printing in the Classroom

It's no secret that 3D printing has a wide range of applications both in education and in industry. More recently, 3D printing has been making its way into the educational curriculum as educators use the machines to teach everything from math and science to history and social studies. With a little imagination, the possibilities for 3D printing in the classroom are endless. 

Here are 10 creative ways real educators in Canada are using 3D printing in the classroom. 

1. 3D Printed Phone/iPad Stand

In our opinion, there's no better way to use a 3D printer than by creating a solution to a real-world problem. For Daniel Kurz at Kirkland Lake District Composite School and his student, Dalton, this meant designing a solution to hold their electronic devices. Dalton created this 3D printed device holder, which can be adjusted to fit a phone or iPad. Real-world solutions like this give students the opportunity to practice their design thinking and problem-solving skills.

Photos courtesy of Daniel Kurz (@mrkurz42)

2. 3D Printed Ornament

Another great way to use 3D printing in the classroom is to allow students to design and print their own tree ornament! Students at Federal Public School were able to create their own personalized ornament for the holiday season. Whether it be for the Christmas season or any other holiday, personalized take-home creations are a great way to get students engaged and excited about 3D printing!

Photos courtesy of Jill Plaunt (@JillPlaunt)

3. 3D Printed Prototypes

The practice of creating 3D printed prototypes is extremely common in the industry but it's also an effective way of teaching design thinking skills to students. The Bobcat Robotics team at the Thames Valley District School Board used 3D printing to create a prototype for a filter they were designing. As you can see in the image below, multiple prototype iterations were required to achieve a final design. 

 Photos courtesy of Bobcat Robotics (@_BobcatRobotics)

4. 3D Printed Solutions for Real-World Problems

One of the best ways to get students engaged and excited about learning is to give them a real-world problem and challenge them to create a solution. For Jess Weber this meant challenging students to think about the problems associated with space exploration and create a solution to address it. Students used design thinking skills to define and ideate a solution and 3D printing to prototype a physical model. These types of activities are amazing for student engagement because students can go right from ideation to physical prototype within a few classes.

Photos courtesy of Jess Weber (@msjessweber)

5. Introduce Students to Design Thinking

For students who are new to the world of design thinking, 3D printing can be a great way to introduce the concept in hands-on way. The process of 3D printing follows the cycle of design thinking by allowing students to empathize and understand the problem, define the issue, and then ideate, prototype and test a solution. Bonnie Caminiti introduced her students to design thinking and 3D printing by giving them the opportunity to 3D model in Tinkercad. 

Photos courtesy of Bonnie Caminiti (@ClassCaminiti)

6. Create 3D Printed Parts to Supplement Other Lessons

Undoubtedly, 3D printers are an amazing resource for students, but they're also a great resource for teachers as well. Drawing on a whiteboard isn't always the best option when it comes to teaching certain concepts. With a 3D printer, teachers can simply print a 3D model to supplement the lesson, giving students a hands-on way of learning. No matter what subject or lesson you're teaching, there's always a 3D model, tool or example that could supplement your teaching. Some great examples of 3D printed teaching aids are geometry shapes for teaching surface area, catapults for teaching Medieval history, CO2 cars for teaching physics and so much more! In the image below, you can see Jayson Schultz 3D printed a gear which would be great to supplement an engineering and mechanics lesson!

Photos courtesy of Jayson Schultz (@jaysonschultz77)

7. 3D Printed Personalized Keychains

3D printed keychains are always a big hit among 3D printer users. It's a simple design that serves as a great introduction to 3D printing and 3D modeling. Keychains are relatively flat which makes it easy for beginner 3D modelers to understand their orientation in a 3-dimensional space. They're also a great take-home activity to get students excited about the activity.

Photos courtesy of Farren Mancuso (@FarrenMancuso)

8. Use 3D Printing to Supplement to Other STEAM Activities

Using 3D printing to modify or supplement other STEAM activities is a great way to increase student engagement. Christopher Luciani and his class 3D printed an obstacle course ramp to supplement their robotics lesson. Not only did students have a great time learning about robotics, but they were also able to explore the world of 3D printing simultaneously. 

 Photos courtesy of Christopher Luciani (@MrLuch2)

9. 3D Print Ancient Architectural Wonders

3D printing ancient architectural wonders are a great way for students to get up close with faraway wonders they may never have the chance to see in person. For one visually-impaired student at a Thames Valley District School Board school, 3D printing was the perfect way to help bring his project to life.  

Photos courtesy of David Carruthers (@dcarruthersedu)

10. Teach Students to Problem-Solve and Create Meaningful Solutions

3D printing can be used to create solutions for a variety of problems, but most of the time those solutions have little impact in our own personal lives. However, this was not the case for one York Region District School Board student. Patrick Manson at Dr. G.W. Williams Secondary School challenged his students to create something that would improve their own life or someone else's. This student, who has cerebral palsy and mobility issues, designed and 3D printed a water bottle holder for his walker. The water bottle holder solves an issue few other can relate to, but for this student, the challenge encouraged him to problem-solve and create a very meaningful solution. 

Photos courtesy of Patrick Manson

The InkSmith Team is proud to have worked with hundreds of teachers and schools from all over Canada to implement 3D printers in the classroom. With the help of other forward-thinking individuals, we have been able to give thousands of students access to a technology they may not have otherwise been given the opportunity to use. 

If you or someone you know has a creative example of using 3D printing in the classroom we would love to hear it! You can contact us, or follow us on social media (@inksmith3D).