Transforming education With 3D Printing

By Marie Falcinella

Yolngu elders teaching and learning Tinkercard 3D modelling software.

3D printing is proving to be one of the most adaptable and innovative technologies of the 21st century, with diverse applications spanning medicine, engineering, art, design and even the domestic realm. This evolving technology is also being used in the education sector, transforming the STEM curriculum and creating powerful learning tools.

Heike Roberts, Director of Education Projects at Modfab Pty Ltd, has been at the forefront of this shift.

“The advantage 3D printing has over traditional STEM teaching methods is that it includes 21st century technology and learning. Students have the ability to create their own designs using CAD, customise and prototype these designs and create tangible objects,” she said.

As a 3D printing technology business in Australia focussing on the needs of educators in relation to 3D print and CAD technology, Modfab collaborates with educators from primary school through to TAFE, creating customised and comprehensive training to meet their needs.

“3D printing is multisensory, so it is an engaging way to incorporate STEM curriculum in the classroom. It is essentially cloaked learning- students are so enthralled with the project they barely notice the complex mathematics and engineering they are applying,” said Heike.

Technology also encourages critical thinking with students developing creative solutions to problems. For example Erin, a year six student from Figtree Heights Public School, developed a “Mouse Tidy” for his teacher who was always frustrated at the tangle the computer mouse leads would get into during storage. Using 3D printing technology he was able to conceptualise, customise and prototype his design. This complete end-to-end process connects the digital world with the physical, making STEM relatable and exciting to students.

Not limited to the classroom, 3D print technology is reaching far and wide, with one particular project seeing Modfab collaborate with Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation to develop and deliver training for Indigenous Australian elders in remote communities. The Plastic Fantastic project was developed as a school attendance initiative, and turns recycled plastic from bottles found around the community into functional objects; from iPhone covers to sunglasses and toys.

As and accredited ESL teacher, Heike Roberts was well equipped to develop the cross-cultural training program for the Yolngu participants in the community of Milingimbi, North East Arnhem Land.

“We were training the elders so that they could then themselves teach the students in Yolngu language,” she said, adding that the team had to do a lot of problem solving for this project, particularly from a technical aspect,” she said. “It became obvious that we would need to work with materials that were available in the community and modify the technology to work within these parameters”.

The visual nature of the CAD software and multisensory aspect of 3D print enabled participants to grasp the technology and concepts very quickly.

“The greatest outcome was Yolngu being able to create and prototype objects for solutions to problems we didn’t know existed, and also being able to add their totems and traditional designs to things like iPhone covers. Indigenous elders being able to lead STEM education in communities through 21st century technology is an exciting development made possible through 3D printing. “

For further information visit Marie Falcinella is a freelance writer, curator and project coordinator specialising in Indigenous Australian art.