March 13, 2014

Explaining 3D Printing

I love explaining 3D printing to people who have never really been exposed to it before. As I share all of the incredible things you can do with a 3D printer their facial expressions  go from bewilderment to pure imagination. I’m also amazed at how some people see the possibilities it presents to some while others clearly don’t get it. They think it’s neat, but they don’t make it personal. They can’t seem to think about how it can help them or what they can do with it.

I’m sure most teachers go through a similar process thinking that 3D printing is really novel and neat, but they don’t see how it can transform their classroom and their students. I think that will change over time as they see what students can do and as the technology becomes more user friendly.

What I really find interesting is how children take to 3D printing like a duck to water. They just get it. It’s like a living illustration of a Sir Ken Robinson Ted Talk. Here’s a short clip*.  The gist of his Ted Talk is that children were able to come up with lots of different ways of using paperclips but as they got older and more educated they seemed to lose their creativity. As an educator and a father I am disturbed by this study and what it reveals about the loss of our imagination as we grow older.

The first day I brought home the printer my 5 year old son asked question after question about it. He was bright eyed, filled with wonderment, and had idea after idea of what he wanted to do with it. I gave him my iPad, opened the 123D Creature app I had just downloaded and let him go at it. He understood that he could make whatever he wanted. I have since printed many things that he has dreamt up and consider it part of my duty as a father to make sure he keeps dreaming up things that he can create.


My 5-year-old creating his first 3D model














The end result. I kept calling it an insect. Colton kept correcting me and telling me it was a gliding hedgehog.


*Here’s the entire Sir Ken Robinson video. It’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

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