Bridg­ing the gap be­tween the­ory and prac­tice, 3D print­ing has rev­o­lu­tionised the class­room; en­abling chil­dren to bring the two-di­men­sional ideas scrib­bled in their note­book to life in a 3D for­mat. The once ‘in­ac­ces­si­ble’ tech­nol­ogy is now be­ing in­stalled

The Australian Education Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - EL­IZ­A­BETH FABRI


REWIND the clock back 50 years and the Aus­tralian job mar­ket looked con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent.

Tech­nol­ogy has dis­rupted our whole way of pro­cess­ing things, in­tro­duc­ing a new crop of ca­reers and in­dus­tries that value skills tai­lored to­wards tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.

From com­puter cod­ing and web­site de­sign to so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing, SEO and blog­ging, the pos­si­bil­i­ties for the grad­u­at­ing stu­dents of to­day are chang­ing as tech­nol­ogy ad­vances.

3D print­ing is one of the lat­est tech­nolo­gies to en­ter schools, pro­duc­ing highly de­tailed three-di­men­sional ob­jects via Com­puter Aided Data (CAD) soft­ware.

The tech­nol­ogy, also re­ferred to as ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, is trans­form­ing the way com­pa­nies do busi­ness; cre­at­ing med­i­cal pros­thet­ics for doc­tors, ar­chi­tec­tural mod­els, car parts, ma­chin­ery for the oil and gas in­dus­try, right through to fash­ion de­signs and his­tor­i­cal arte­fact copies.

3D print­ing can also en­hance prac­tices in the class­room, help­ing stu­dents bet­ter grasp the com­plex­i­ties of bi­ol­ogy and chem­istry mol­e­cules, en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign, to­po­graphic and de­mo­graphic maps in ge­ol­ogy, and math­e­matic prob­lems.

Aus­tralian Coun­cil for Com­put­ers in Ed­u­ca­tion (ACCE) pres­i­dent Martin Levins said the ed­u­ca­tion in­dus­try has hailed 3D print­ing’s role in get­ting stu­dents ready for a tech-fo­cused fu­ture.

“The 3D printer democra­tises ac­cess to the 3D phys­i­cal world where tens of thou­sands of dol­lars were needed in the re­cent past, in the same way that laser print­ers and desk­top pub­lish­ing soft­ware did for the print mar­ket,” Mr Levins said.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, they open the world of 3D con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion to an in­dus­try that has tra­di­tion­ally dealt with two di­men­sional ma­te­ri­als, and re­search has shown that chil­dren are more at home with three di­men­sions than with two.”

Mak­ers Em­pire, one of the many Aus­tralian com­pa­nies spe­cial­is­ing in the tech­nol­ogy, said 3D print­ing had been around for sev­eral decades, but had only reached a point of util­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity for schools in the last five years.

“10 years ago, 3D print­ers were ei­ther very ex­pen­sive ( more than $50,000) or very ‘DIY’ re­quir­ing a lot of tin­ker­ing and fix­ing,” Mak­ers Em­pire chief ex­ec­u­tive Jon Soong said.

“But times have changed: the last five years has seen a huge in­flux of new 3D printer man­u­fac­tur­ers con­stantly im­prov­ing the qual­ity of the prints and the ease of use of 3D print­ers while si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­duc­ing the cost to the end user.”

Mr Soong said 3D print­ing had “un­equalled ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fits for schools”, mak­ing ab­stract con­cepts such as DNA com­pre­hen­si­ble; let­ting stu­dents study in­ac­ces­si­ble ob­jects such as fos­sils and skele­tons; im­prov­ing spa­tial aware­ness and think­ing; of­fer­ing real world ex­pe­ri­ence in the de­sign think­ing process; and po­si­tion­ing stu­dents as in­no­va­tors and cre­ators rather than just con­sumers.

“The tech­nol­ogy can also be used to solve real world prob­lems,” Mr Soong said.

“For ex­am­ple, one grade 6 class de­cided to cre­ate clips to help their teacher’s tod­dler who has cere­bral palsy.

“She had to wear med­i­cal straps on her legs but they kept fall­ing down so the grade 6 stu­dents de­signed, pro­to­typed and tested 3D printed clips to se­cure her leg straps and stop them fall­ing.”

The ma­chines were also highly praised for fos­ter­ing fe­male stu­dents’ in­ter­est in STEM re­lated sub­jects tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated by boys.

“The Aus­tralian Cur­ricu­lum: Tech­nolo­gies has an em­pha­sis on think­ing - sys­tems think­ing, com­pu­ta­tional think­ing and de­sign think­ing,” Mr Soong said.

“While cod­ing and ro­bot­ics are great for com­pu­ta­tional think­ing, we be­lieve 3D de­sign and print­ing to be a fan­tas­tic tool to teach de­sign think­ing while also in­tro­duc­ing stu­dents to a tech­nol­ogy that will fea­ture heav­ily in their fu­tures.”


School in­ter­est in 3D print­ing has reached new heights in the last five years, with both the Fed­eral and State Gov­ern­ments fi­nan­cially sup­port­ing the tech­nol­ogy roll out.

In 2016, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment an­nounced a Dig­i­tal Lit­er­acy School Grants ini­tia­tive as part of its Na­tional In­no­va­tion and Sci­ence Agenda to en­cour­age and fa­cil­i­tate the new Aus­tralian cur­ricu­lum; Dig­i­tal Tech­nolo­gies.

The fund­ing round handed out grants of be­tween $10,000 and $50,000 for equip­ment such as 3D print­ers and laser cut­ters, and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment in the ICT arena.

Last year the South Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment also launched a 3D print­ing pi­lot pro­gram part­ner­ship be­tween the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion and Child De­vel­op­ment and Maker’s Em­pire, which saw 3D print­ers in­stalled in 21 State Gov­ern­ment pri­mary schools.

This year the South Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued its sup­port, pro­vid­ing an ad­di­tional 50 schools with print­ers.

Con­struc­tion had also be­gun at 139 South Aus­tralian schools that were re­ceiv­ing in­fra­struc­ture over­hauls as part of a $250 mil­lion STEM Works pro­gram.

Sim­i­larly, in Vic­to­ria, the Andrews La­bor Gov­ern­ment’s $128 mil­lion Tech School ini­tia­tive will see 10 new tech schools open through­out 2017 and 2018, com­plete with 3D print­ers and 3D scan­ners part­ner­ing schools can share.

Canberra was also lead­ing the way, with the ACT Ed­u­ca­tion Direc­torate and Aus­tralian 3D Man­u­fac­tur­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (A3DMA) be­gin­ning a schools pi­lot pro­gram to equip six Canberra pub­lic schools for 3D print­ing.

“The pro­gram sup­ported stu­dents and teach­ers to de­velop their knowl­edge on how 3D tech­nolo­gies are used in the real world through ex­per­i­ment­ing, prob­lem solv­ing, pro­to­typ­ing and eval­u­at­ing pro­cesses,” an ACT Ed­u­ca­tion Direc­torate spokesper­son said.

Fur­ther west, the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion WA in­vited in­ter­ested schools to ap­ply for a 3D printer in 2015.

“Forty schools from across the State were sup­plied with a printer, and staff from these schools com­pleted pro­fes­sional learn­ing so they could use the tech­nol­ogy ef­fec­tively,” Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion WA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of state-wide ser­vices Lind­say Hale said.


3D print­ing has never been so easy to in­te­grate into the school cur­ricu­lum, with a di­verse range of sup­port ser­vices and PD cour­ses now avail­able to help ease the tran­si­tion.

The Aus­tralian 3D Man­u­fac­tur­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (A3DMA) chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike de Souza said 3D print­ers on the lower end could set schools back as lit­tle as $400, but ad­vised prin­ci­pals to in­vest in a printer that had been ‘tried and tested’, and was re­li­able with suit­able safety fea­tures, sup­port and war­ranties.

He said a depend­able printer for a school started at the $1500 mark, and rec­om­mended schools supplement this with a pro­fes­sional sup­port pro­gram to en­sure the print­ing process ran smoothly.

A3DMA’S pro­gram was one ex­am­ple, which of­fered schools sup­port, train­ing, les­son plans, and soft­ware.

“The 3D4ED pro­gram was de­vised by the A3DMA be­cause of the out­come of the re­search that we had done which in­di­cated a num­ber of is­sues and prob­lems that were be­ing de­tailed by vir­tu­ally ev­ery school or ed­u­ca­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion that wanted to or had tried to in­sti­gate a pro­gram,” Mr de Souza said.

“Those is­sues went from a lack of knowl­edge on hard­ware and soft­ware pro­grams, a lack of sup­port; all of the types of things that you would nor­mally as­so­ciate with a new and in­no­va­tive pro­gram that peo­ple just don’t know any­thing about.

“So in con­junc­tion with the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing we wrote and de­vised the pro­grams and cer­ti­fied that hard­ware and went through test­ing pro­cesses where dif­fer­ent types of hard­ware for dif­fer­ent pur­poses would be as­sessed by us, and soft­ware pro­grams.”

He said ex­am­ples of lessons in­cluded de­sign­ing the plan­ets of the universe through CAD soft­ware and bring­ing these to life through trans­fer­ring the date to the 3D ma­chine.

“There’s open source soft­ware, which is avail­able and free on the in­ter­net, stuff like Tinker­cad; and then there’s soft­ware that you buy such as Solid­works,” he said.

“As things move there is a lot more free and open source soft­ware be­com­ing avail­able, and as we move on there are many more pro­grams and dif­fer­ent type of prints avail­able.”

Sub­scrip­tion soft­ware such as Anatomic­srx’s Di­ver­sity was in­creas­ingly used in schools,

Im­age: Hamp­ton Se­nior High School.

Im­age: Mak­ers Em­pire.

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