How to Teach the ‘E’ in STEM with 3D Printing: Engineering in Primary School
Are we teaching all the letters in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineer and Mathematics) or are some receiving more attention than others? If you look around, math and science are staples of education, while technology is integrated into many areas of student learning.
But what about engineering?
Engineering, the ‘E’ in STEM, is often overlooked, especially at the K-8 level. But engineering is a vital skill that we want our students to develop. We want our students to be confident creators, inventors and designers. But for that to be the reality we must bring engineering into our teaching practice.
This doesn’t mean just having students build things. It means giving students the opportunity to experience the engineering design process and the Design Thinking process first hand.
It means building with purpose.
It means empathizing with a problem.
It means multiple iterations.
It means thinking creatively and critically.
Fortunately, Makers Empire provides a learning platform for students to confidently tackle the engineering design process and the Design Thinking process. Our teachers have used Makers Empire and 3D printing to successfully teach the important, but often forgotten, ‘E’ in STEM. A few of their ideas and experiences are discussed below.
Students at Snowtown Primary School became super-inventors when they embarked on a project to design a Super Gadget. Students thought about the types of gadgets that their superhero would need. What problems does a superhero face? What supervillains do they need to defeat? Then they used the engineering design process to develop iterations of their Super Gadget. Once they had a final product, the students created a commercial or a sales pitch to try and convince a superhero to buy their new Super Gadget! Read more about their experiences here (Snowtown).
The town of Mundalla needed a new entrance sign and the city called upon its youngest designers, the students at Mundalla Primary School to design the sign. Students came up with lots of ideas and worked through the entire design cycle including 2D drawings, 3D designs and printing out 3D models. Throughout the project, students used the Design Thinking process to help them design a creative, and yet still functional new town entrance sign. Read more about how Mundalla students created the new town entrance sign here.
The Deputy Principal at Birdwood Primary School needed help. She was making jam to sell for the annual school fundraising event, but she was spilling lots of jam during the jarring process. She turned to her students for help. She needed them to design a tool that would allow her to maximize profits by reducing the amount of spilt jam. The students used both Design Thinking and the engineering design process to create multiple tools to test. To read about how the students solved this efficiency issue continue reading here.
Huntfield Heights Primary School students were learning about how pollution affects their local community. This involved the students researching different pollution problems in their local area and brainstorming ways that they could help. Students identified one pollution issue they wanted to combat and then set out to create a solution. They used Makers Empire and their engineering skills to draw, design and prototype a solution. To see the solutions they created read more here.
The aftermath of a natural disaster is devastating for the communities who are affected, so anything that can be done to alleviate some of these issues is helpful. The students at Scots College wanted to learn how they might help out in these situations. Students thought through the consequences of a natural disaster and empathized with people who have been affected by natural disasters to decide what would be a helpful solution. They became disaster engineers and devised solutions to some of the issues caused by natural disaster. To see what they came up with, read more here.
Looking for ways you can use 3D design and printing to teach the other letters in STEM? Or perhaps all the letters in STREAM? Check out our article, STEM, STEAM, STREAM… How 3D Design Supports Them All!
About the Author
Jeanette McConnell, Ph.D. is a passionate educator with a strong scientific background. She earned a bachelors degree in biochemistry at San Diego State University and went on to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry at the University of NSW. Throughout her studies, she tutored her fellow students. Her experience presenting science shows and workshops to children convinced her of the value of a hands-on education. She believes Makers Empire is the way to make learning hands-on and harness the power of 3D printing technology in education.
MAKERS EMPIRE: BETTER LEARNING BY DESIGN
Makers Empire helps K-8 teachers teach Design Thinking, STEM and 21st-century learning skills using 3D printing. Our pioneering 3D solutions for schools include 3D modelling software, over 150 lesson plans aligned with international standards and professional development. With Makers Empire, engaged students learn how to solve real-world problems and make their world better.
"The software is fantastic! Very user friendly. The students enjoyed beginning with the challenges and it was a useful way for them to jump right in! ... The students are seeing the real life applications of math and engineering in the real world... (but) I think the best part so far has been the spatial reasoning - students are solving the problems they encounter and so I can really see some critical thinking happening."
Maria (Mimi) Brown, Program Support Teacher
St. Joseph Catholic School, Ontario, Canada
“Makers Empire is a more student-friendly version of TinkerCAD for your primary kids. It’s so much easier and there are games to teach the kids how to design and how to manoeuvre the build plate… TinkerCAD, Sketchup – they are all for upper grades.”
Robin McGinnis, North/South/Jr. High Lead Teacher – STEAM
Mount Healthy City School District, USA
'I found Makers Empire to be incredibly user-friendly. In particular, it was very “school” friendly. There are very easy processes for children of all ages and literacy levels to log onto their accounts saving so much time and stress... the learning is in the process, not the product. You could very successfully use Makers Empire without ever actually printing anything (but it is a lot more fun and exciting when you can print it!)... All unit plans have direct links to the curriculum including the Digital Technologies curriculum. The deeper I delve into using Makers Empire the more opportunities I see for using maths in an authentic manner, particularly when using the Shaper app with measurements, shapes etc.”
Hajnalka Molloy,Leader of Campus Library and Information Services
Aberfoyle Park Primary Campus, Aberfoyle Park, SA
"Exploring 3D objects using the @MakersEmpire software. The students of 2/1N didn’t want to stop and kept asking when can we do it again!"
Samantha Newth, Assistant Principal
North Kellyville Primary School, Kellyville, NSW
“I’m sending you the very best wishes and enormous gratitude for connecting our students with your learning program. To say this purchase has been transformative might sound like an exaggeration but it’s pretty darn close to the truth."
Mary Bongiovanni, Director of Design Thinking
Pace Academy, Georgia, USA
"As a school, this has been a game changer in the 3D design game for our students of all ages. This is a great design and creation tool that teachers and students can use to be innovative and share ideas with a vibrant community of makers. With Makers Empire, students learn how to identify needs and opportunities and then create, prototype, test and refine designs of solutions using 3D printing."
Craig Kemp, Head of Educational Technology
Stamford American International School, Singapore
“The (3D printing) lesson plans are really good. While they’re designed around the Makers Empire software, they’re actually designed around the design cycle. This is important is that it’s actually saying to kids, here’s a design cycle that has these steps in it: you have a thought, you make a plan, you design it, you print it, you check it, and then you go back and you improve it. It's driving kids to think about the design cycle."
Russell Deer, Principal
Braemar College, Woodend, VIC
"Yessss! We have found the perfect application for Elementary Students to design and 3D Print on the iPad. Thank you @MakersEmpire!!
Adam Torrens, Educator
Stamford American International School, Singapore
"A roadmap to start 3D printing at our school."
Giovanna Iannicelli, Teacher
St Mary's College, SA
"Software is great, very user friendly... Kids loved it."
Bryan Couts, Technology Teacher
Titusville Middle School, Pennsylvania, USA
"After having tried several softwares I can say hands down that Makers Empire has been the easiest for my students in grades 3-5 to access and manipulate."
Christopher Burdman, STEM Teacher
Joseph P Tynan Elementary School, Boston, USA
“Redlands has been using Makers Empire to support the students’ creative writing efforts. Students were asked to design a character or an object using the Makers Empire software. After this creative process, students had to justify the design attributes of their character or object in writing. Students became actively involved in the creative process which helped inform their writing process. Makers Empire is a great hook before a writing task.”
Shireen Winrow, E-learning Facilitator
Redlands School, Redlands, NSW
"I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your session and learning about Makers Empire. Your product is easy to use and beautifully designed. I think teachers are going to love it!"
Los Angeles County Office of Education, California, USA
"I was trying to start 3D printing in our school for a while, but I found it very difficult to start from nothing. I needed a lot of resources and easy access to resources. This program has provided everything that I needed. It was wonderful!... All of my students learned how to use Makers Empire design software during my STEM classes. I used Makers Empire lessons: “Let’s Get Decorated” with 5th-8th grade students and “Mazes” with 8th grade students. They all loved learning about 3D printing... I enjoyed teaching this, observing their enjoyment, learning and looking at their awesome designs,"
Meltem Albayrak DiLeo, Teacher
Holy Trinity Catholic School, Pennsylvania, USA
"I love Makers Empire software. It is great to use with elementary age students... I love teaching students how to design for 3D printing. It’s so fun watching them problem solve to create a certain shape by adding or taking away."
Karen Owen, Technology Teacher
Grace Christian Academy, Tennessee, USA
From the beginning, the students had no trouble. They absolutely loved it... The students' favorite part was going from the computer screen to something they can hold in their hand...It’s always better if you can give students an authentic reason to communicate."
Sandra Wiseman, Library Media & Technology Integration Specialist
Woodsdale Elementary School, West Virginia, USA
"The students love it. They picked it up very quickly. Now, they are better at it than I am!"
Colleen Small, Media Specialist
Groveland Elementary School, Minnesota, USA
“Before I started with Makers Empire I had no idea how 3D printing worked. I avoided coding and anything to do with the DigiSpace... Definitely, do the PD (professional development) from Makers Empire. It was very clear and helped me put 3D printing into practice… I think it’s wonderful for someone who is a bit fearful… it really helped me develop confidence in it.”