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Congrats to the UK: a 3D printer in every school

As part of an overhaul in the national curriculum, the British government has implemented several changes in their Design and Technology curriculum; the most exciting of which is the requirement for all secondary schools to have and use a 3D printer in the classroom. This change aims to make British children more competitive in the global economy and provide future workers with the ability to design, make, and test their own ideas. As Design and Technology Association Chief Executive Richard Green said “[the overhaul provides] essential skills for [students] to participate in an increasingly technological world.”

math graph

Preparing students to participate in a technological world is increasingly more important for UK students, as they ranked 30th of 65 countries in math proficiency. In addition, this overhaul should allow the country to fill the current shortage of workers for technology jobs and may even boost the nation’s GDP. According to a Harvard Kennedy School report, a country such as the UK, with math proficiency similar to the United States’, could increase its GDP by 0.5% per year if it increases the math proficiency of its students by 10%. To put this in context, at the current US GDP of 15 trillion dollars; that’s 75 billion per year of expected gains in economic output.

recess

While increasing the GDP is great, we at Mission St. want to focus on what kids are already great at: playing.  Since we all already agree that every elementary school student’s favorite subject is recess, we believe that a similar combination of imagination, activity and creativity can also make technology fun an engaging.  Our integrated 3D printing experience enables kids to learn real world skills like designing and testing ideas while also playing and having fun. This not only keeps parents and teachers happy as their children engage in something educational instead of just watching TV or disrupting class, it also cultivates skills within children that will make them more successful in navigating the technical workforce of the future.

So congratulations UK!  Our 3D printed hats are off to you.

NASA is betting on 3D printing

NASA may be best known for putting a man on the moon but it is really here on Earth it has had the most effect. Technology and research developed to support the space program have spawned over 6300 patents and led to many everyday items we take for granted. Consumer products in nearly every aspect of life from invisible braces and water filters to better cordless power tools have their origins in the research conducted by NASA. So what’s one of the most innovative government agencies experimenting with now?  3D Printing.

From sponsoring a $125,000 grant to experiment with 3D printed food (of course, they’ll start with making pizza) to helping Made in Space, a 3D printing company, design and test a 3D printer that will work without gravity, NASA is betting on the potential of 3D printing.

3Dpizza

A NASA study found that nearly 1/3 of the parts replaced on the International Space Station could have been 3D printed, which would have prevented billions of dollars in spare parts from being stored on the station. The potential causes such excitement that there have even been discussions on 3D printing an entire space station or space ship, but that seems to be many years away at this point.

floating 3d

While Mission St. does not see itself in space (well, not yet) we do see ourselves as the first 3D printer many of the future designers, engineers and scientist who are going to 3D print the first space shuttle will use. By making the 3D printing experience fun and exciting we hope to inspire a new generation to 3D print the world and help NASA get one step closer to again changing our lives.

 

Why Picasso would love 3D printing

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

- Pablo Picasso

 

picasso1picasso2

We all too often find ourselves trapped by our experiences. We know what has worked in the past and what has not worked, and live our lives accordingly. One of the great artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, was able to create some of the most eclectic and sought after artwork in the world by experimenting and challenging traditional art. Like Picasso, children are not confined by past experiences; they explore, learn, create and have fun in the process.

We see kids using 3D printing much like Picasso used his paintbrush. Most adults are confined to figure out something useful to create that solves an apparent problem. What we, as adults, design we judge based on our experiences of what others have designed and created before us. We compare ourselves to pre-defined standards. Kids do not have this problem. They can create and design without preconceptions, without standards, with full freedom and flexibility. 3D printing is the new canvas upon which artists, engineers, and scientist and will experiment and create tomorrow’s world.

3D Printing offers a way for children to play and create like never before. It’s building an epic sandcastle every day, not just during beach vacations. It’s expanding their imagination and allowing them to bring it to life. And more importantly, it’s providing a blank canvas for new ideas that have not even entered their minds.

sandcastle

For the rest of us, 3D printing is a way to get back to being a kid, unbiased, uninhibited and free to design, create and play. 3D printing allows you to create what you imagine –now imagine what you can create.

3M and Google’s example can improve education

3M instituted 15% time in the 1950’s which allowed employees to spend 15% of their time working on pet projects which led to the creation of one of its most iconic products: Post-Its. Google gives employees 20% to work on projects not in their job description and has been rewarded with products like Gmail, Adsense and Google News. What both of these companies have figured out is that allowing talented people the time and resources to play and create makes their companies and employees better.

post-itgmail

While such a sweeping change through education is unlikely, there are some educational institutions that could benefit from these kinds of changes. After school programs and private schools who are less tied down to state-wide curriculum could dramatically change the way they approach project based learning. Educators could ask students to work together to solve a problem; not a math problem or a multiple choice history question but any problem they want. Then, students control their learning experience (with subtle direction from their teachers, of course). Through brainstorming together, devising various fixes and testing their solution, students would stay engaged and would learn skills valued by employers. Who knows, maybe they even design a customizable splint to provide medical care in developing countries like high school student Ian McHale.

splint

Mission St. is built on the premise that we can set creativity free by providing everyone affordable access to 3D printers with a simple experience they enjoy. Whether it is designing a toy, mocking up a historical battle, or helping students stay engaged in the classroom and interested in STEM, 3D printing can help. As Ian, 3M and Google show, giving talented people access to resources is never a waste of time.

3D Printing Better High School Education Experiences

In my high school physics class, one of our projects was to build a bridge out of balsa wood and glue that weighted under a certain amount and then see how much weight the bridge would hold. In theory, this would allow us to apply the basic engineering concepts we were learning to a real world problem. However, the bridge was more or less an arts and crafts project; those people who paid the most attention to their building process (i.e. cut pieces precisely and used a lot of glue) had the better bridges, not necessarily those with superior designs. Building the bridge was also extremely time consuming, so we only made one bridge and did not have the chance to learn why our design failed and to improve upon the bridge, which is where the bulk of actual learning would occur.

balsa bridge

Now imagine this project if you could somehow rapidly design and build bridges. With 3D printing, students could design a bridge, test it, see what failed, and then redesign their bridge based on what they learned. The precision and repeatability of 3D printing means the only variable that changes is the student’s design. Small changes to a bridge, or even entire re-designs, can be tested knowing the quality of construction will be consistent, allowing students to learn from their failures.

CAD bridge

While this is just one example, 3D printing offers a wide variety of educational uses, allowing students to design and create actual objects to test in a real world environment. The only limits to this technology are the creativity and imagination of students.  The low cost, biodegradable FDM (fused deposition modeling) material combined with the decreasing prices of consumer 3D printers makes 3D printing a cost-effective and safe way for schools and school districts to allow students to learn and experiment. 3D printing is billed as a technology of the future so why don’t we get it in the hands of the future, today’s students?