Myminifactory Interview – My Views on 3dprinting and education

 

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This is the interview that was originally posted on myminifactory.com on 14/10/14.

I have been a Design and Technology teacher for 6 years and have led Product Design at Ladybridge High School for the past 5 years. My background is Industrial Design having studied a BA(Hons) degree in Industrial Design and Technology at Loughborough University. I then went on to gain a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) from the University of Manchester in Design and Technology. In 2013 I won the 3dprintshow award for educational excellence for my teaching of 3dprinting to high school students and I successfully won the award again in 2014. I have advised multiple other schools on 3dprinting and have led workshops for the University of Manchester to expose their students training to be teachers on how 3dprinting is used in the classroom. I have also advised the BBC and numerous other companies on how 3dprinting has been taught to high school students. In my personal time I have a blog philipcotton.com and I also contribute to the 3dprintingassociation.

 

  1. How has 3D Printing been used in the classroom of Ladybridge High School? Can you give us few early examples and recent examples?

 

 

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3dprinting has become a core element of Product Design GCSE in the past few years with more integration into the subject every year I teach it. The first thing that I teach students is how to use 3D CAD modelling packages and then once they have a basic knowledge of that they can understand how to design parts for their projects. One of the first projects students will do in year 10 is an iphone case. They will learn to design in CAD a basic iphone case and then they will customise it to their personal preference. This allows students to have a unique product that they can use and that no one else will have. They also have a sense of pride in the fact that created a product that they cannot buy in the shops.

 

After students have learnt the basics on CAD and have successfully applied it to a project such as the iphone case they then have the option to use the technology in their final year project that makes up 60% of their GCSE grade. They can’t really just use 3dprinting on its own as they have to show a range of different skills, however if they can incorporate it into their project then this will be beneficial. I ask the students to incorporate lasercutting and traditional craft skills to show that they can demonstrate a range of different skills. Examples of this are designing lamp shades or parts of lamp shades for their project. The basis of the use of 3dprinting is that it allows students to make something and turn an idea into reality that really may not be able to be manufactured any other way. It definitely increases the scope for enhanced creativity. Also in the new national curriculum students have to taught about new and emerging technologies and 3dprinting lends itself to this perfectly.

 

Another project that I have just started with my years tens is a culture inspired desk tidy. Student have to research a culture and then aim to design and 3dprint a desk tidy after having modelled it in CAD. This had proved a success as many students have a relation to a specific culture in my school so this enhances their motivation.

 

 

  1. How did the pupils react to 3D printing?

Pupils love 3dprinting. I have not met one pupil yet that doesn’t like it. Every lesson that the printer is printing an object the pupils always go to the printer to see what is being made. I once asked my students what they thought of 3dprinting in lessons and they responded with these quotes below;

I feel excited as there are a lot of things to do using the software and the 3dprinter. I also feel challenged to make new things.

I think 3dprinting is totally relevant as it is new technology which will soon be very big in the world. ThereforE I think it is very relevant to Design and Technology.

I feel challenged as it is something new and you can be creative.

It allows you to be more creative and helps you to easily and quickly create intricate products.

I do think that 3dprinting is as it is the way of the future.

You feel excited because you have the freedom in what you do and you can design a lot of things.

 

I find that 3dprinting has helped spark the imagination of pupils and it has also helped lead to a massive increase in grades from 38% A*-C when I arrived at the school to 79%A*-C which is significantly above the national average pass rate for design and technology which is 61% A*-C.

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  1. Did you experience any difficulties while teaching with 3D printing?

Demonstrating the 3dprinter is easy and all pupils understand how it works. The difficult part is teaching the 3D CAD design to whole classes. This can prove a challenge as some CAD packages are extremely complex and pupils can find them over whelming. However, with good teaching they can learn it. I don’t really agree with downloading and printing parts from file repositories as there is no real educational value in this. The real learning takes place when pupils design their own parts. I also think it helps students to persevere with it and teaches them to keep working at something even when it is hard. Then there is the issue of printing out students work. This can take a long time and sometimes designs don’t print so the student have to re-design them, this can be a good learning process as it teaches pupils that things don’t really go right first time when making things. 3dPrinting is not something that the whole class can do together. They can all design together but then the result is a backlog of designs that have to be put through the printer.

Then there is the issue of reliability of the 3dprinter. When they work they are amazing, however when they go wrong it can be a nightmare especially if you need to print student work out for a deadline. Teachers are extremely busy and don’t have the time to try and fix printers. I am lucky as we have an extremely skilled department technician that can fix the 3dprinters when they go wrong. However, when teachers are just starting out and they go wrong it can put them off teaching it again as it can be highly frustrating. Blocked extruders and levelling beds etc can be a nightmare sometimes and take a lot of time and patience to fix.

Also there is the safety issue with many 3dptinting machines. They have extremely hot extruders that can cause a serious burn if children were to touch it and also the moving parts that could trap finders and really make a lasting injury. Many printers have enclosed their build platforms which should really be standard in schools.

 

  1. What is the motivation for you to educate the pupils about 3D printing?

3dprinting is expanding so rapidly that there will be many jobs by the time these pupils finish school. If they are taught about it now then they will have better employment prospects when they are older. Also the fact that the actual print process is exciting. When I first demonstrated the 3dprinter 3 years ago. I said ‘ok everyone in one hours time there will be an iphone case made by this printer and one of you can take it home’. The reaction on the pupils faces was priceless.

The technology is current and pupils appreciate being taught the latest technology. They take it on board and run with it and they truly do create some amazing things. The technology interests me and I believe if the teacher is genuinely interested in what they are teaching then lessons will be of a far higher standard than simply teaching it just because it is on the curriculum.

 

  1. As we are aware of, you are now expanding 3D printing into the STEM subjects – how are you doing this?

 

This is still in its infancy at the moment and we are looking at creating a stem club with science where students will learn about how rockets work in physics and the materials needed to make one. They will then link with Product Design so we can work together to enable the students to design their rockets on CAD and then 3dprint and test them. We have the technology to launch the rockets so hopefully it should be a good collaboration.

 

  1. Do you think there would be a possibility for 3D printing to be applied on the less technology-related subjects such as history, music and business?

In some cases it could be used to provide resources for teachers to help educate the classes on e.g. the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC has scanned many artefacts in and teachers can download and 3dprint them in class to assist with learning. This is a great idea as it bring the museum to the classroom especially when a visit to the museum can’t be arranged. So in this case it is great. In music you could print your own musical instruments, however there is the issue of ‘quality of sound’. I don’t think a 3dprinted ABS saxophone would sound the same as a brass one.  In Business it could be used if students wanted to design and sell a new product. However, for this to happen they would probably end up with the technology teacher as they would need to learn how to design the product in CAD and then they would have to 3dprint it. Then you have to ask the question is this a business lesson or a lesson in how to design and manufacture a product, then it would really be a design and technology lesson….. The one barrier to 3dprinting going mainstream into other subjects is the design aspect. You have to be able to learn how to 3DCAD model and there is only one subject where this is taught and that it Design and Technology. I think some teachers will experiment with it but the real place for 3dprinting is Design and Technology.

 

  1. What is your general view on the future of 3D printing & Education?

I am intrigued to see how it will ‘pan out’. Almost on a daily basis I am contacted by teachers from other schools needing advice on 3dprinting as they are struggling with it or need advice on where to start. The whole process has to be made more streamlined and more reliable for it really to explode in the future and all schools and pupils to be exposed to it. As I write this today I spent two hours after school trying to unblock the extruder on our new 3dprinter and became highly frustrated. I actually think FDM machines will be obsolete and maybe SLA machines will be where the future in 3dprinting will be.

If teachers have the support and are prepared to stick with it, then 3dprinting is an amazing piece of technology. However, if there is not the support then in some schools they will just become large paper weights. I think the future lays with the printer companies and resellers. They need to make better machines at better prices and offer support as standard. In schools, budgets are under pressure and really 3dprinters need to be cheaper for the mainstream to adopt it. I couldn’t really see a geography department shelling out £2000 for a makerbot just to print a volcano or a 3D map  when their whole budget for the year might only be £4000. Many printer companies would like to market the fact that all subjects can use 3dprinting as this will mean that they can sell more printers and ultimately make more profit. However, the reality is the whole point of 3dprinting is to design and make things and this is the core ethos in the Design and Technology curriculum so any other subjects will just be experimenting .Also with the technology emerging so fast and new machines coming out all the time, some schools might be reluctant to invest as in a year the technology would have advanced so much that the machine would be out of date. Three years ago we spent £2500 on a Bits from Bytes 3D touch and now the machine is obsolete and is not even sold anymore. Along with this some printers are down to under £800 and can print twice as fast so schools either have to take the risk and invest in technology that within a few years will be out of date or play the waiting game.

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