10 Ways Teachers are Enhancing STEM Learning with 3D Printing
Few would argue that STEM learning in K-8 schools is a bad idea. But many are unaware of just how important these STEM initiatives are to our schools.
As reported by CNBC, last year the US had three million STEM jobs left unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. The same is true in Australia where the Australian Financial Review reported that only 18% of Australian university graduates were in the STEM fields. Science, technology, engineering and math are the industries that move our society forward and there are just not enough workers to fill the demand for these positions.
This is why K-8 initiatives for STEM and STEAM are so important. We are instilling a passion for STEM into today’s students so that they are prepared and excited to take on STEM jobs in their futures.
To develop this passion for STEM, students need to experience STEM subjects in an engaging, exciting, and hands-on way. Makers Empire is a great way to make that possible. Makers Empire is fun for students and positions them as engineers, creators, problem solvers… all the things we want our students to be.
Here are 10 examples of teachers using Makers Empire with their students to promote STEM and STEAM learning in their classrooms. Click on the headings to learn more about individual school examples.
Students were asked what at animal would look like once it had adapted to the environment on Mars. To answer this question students had to learn about how the climate on Mars is different than the climate on Earth. Then they use 3D design to explore how the animal’s body and behavior would change after adapting to life on Mars!
When students were learning about the different types of natural disasters, they took their learning one step further. They decided to create solutions to the problems caused by natural disasters. The students identified the unique problems associated with each type of natural disaster and then 3D designed and printed solutions to those problems.
Math can be a challenging subject for some students. One teacher said, whenever it was time for math her students would cry! She decided to make math more enjoyable for her students by having them create a 3D printed math avatar. Students created an entire world for these avatars and there were no more math tears!
When students were completing a research project about how nanotubes make sporting helmets more effective, they used 3D design and printing to model the nanotubes. Nanotubes, as the name suggests, are very tiny structures that require powerful technology to be viewed. So with 3D printing students could create large scale models to discuss and visualize how nanotubes can make sporting helmets safer.
In science, students learned about the different planets in our solar system and how they each have a unique environment. The students also learned about how scientists used a rover to explore the surface of Mars. Now it was their turn. They were challenged to design a rover that would be able to explore another planet in our solar system. They had to explain why they chose the specific features of their rover and how the rover would send information back to Earth!
You can read about what a pulley or a lever is all you want, but the concept is not going to be understood until a student has a hands-on experience. In this lesson, students had to 3D design a simple machine (pulley, lever, screws, wedges etc.) using simple shapes. Students got to engage with cutting edge 3D technology and learn the basics of math and engineering as they created functional simple machines!
This lesson combined math, drawing, design and coding all into one! Students were challenged to design a maze and then program a Sprk ball to complete the maze. Students began by drawing in 2D. Then they transferred their designs into 3D. But, the designs had to be the right scale for the Sprk ball to fit in! The students rose to the challenge and programmed their robots to successfully navigate the 3D designed maze!
In this lesson, students were challenged to design a storage container that could be used on the International Space Station (ISS). They learned that being on board the ISS is very different than being on Earth because on ISS there is no gravity! The students had to think about the consequence of having no gravity and the effect it would have on people living on the ISS. Then, using all the things they learned about the ISS, they 3D designed a suitable storage container.
Students investigated the different modes of transportation people use. They then researched the environmental impact that these different types of transportation have. To take their learning further, students were asked to 3D design their own car. They used what they had learned about transportation to design their own unique car.
The future of manufacturing is likely to look very different than it does today. And one school is giving it’s students a great opportunity to be the engineers of our future with the creation of their Advance Manufacturing Trade Center. This is an entire facility where students can use 3D design and printing to manufacture their creations. 3D printing is uniquely able to give students this hands on experience in manufacturing.
3D design and printing adds a level of fun and engagement to any lesson and it’s perfectly suited to support the STEM learning approach. We love hearing about how teachers are using Makers Empire in their classrooms, so if you have a story you would like to share email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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.
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"This has been a wonderful new way to teach and motivate my students. They are so eager and excited to learn in this new way!... They are beginning to see real-life implications to what they learning to do in class and how they could develop prototypes of objects that they could develop and then produce to sell... At first, I preferred Tinkercad because I knew this software better. However, now that I have had some time to work with Makers Empire it is so much better. It does a much better job of showing you how to build and create. The challenges help tremendously!...The overall enthusiasm towards school and learning has increased tremendously. Students who are typically reluctant learners have come to life. One student was chronically absent and has now improved his attendance. He asks me each morning if he can get on the computer!"
Robin McGinnis, Teacher, North Elementary School
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
"I think the lesson plans are fantastic for teachers - especially those who may find the hardest part being the inspiration/ideas on where to start...The Makers Empire app is a MASSIVE value add to the learning. We could have taught children how to design an iPad stand, learn what makes a structure strong, what are strong ‘shapes’, how to keep an item balanced etc etc etc - but the ability to create their design in 3D AND then print it makes the learning so much more obtainable and relevant/real."
Chris Bennie, Assistant Principal, Stirling East Primary School
Stirling East, South Australia
"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
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
"Makers Empire has been a great tool for many of my students that find other CAD software difficult. Some students have difficulty visualizing in a 3D workspace; 3D modelling is great practice to build spatial sense... This is linked to a skill in our math curriculum, so it's great to give a real world application for students to practice... Originally I started with my whole class using TinkerCAD. However, when given the choice many of my students gravitated to Makers Empire. I'm not sure if they prefer using the touch screen on the tablets to manipulate their designs, the gamification, or something else, but many have been successful with it and have made some great designs! 3D printing tech lets my students see themselves as creators and how it can help others. They feel empowered by the possibilities of the technology and the leadership they are able to take in their school."
Jeff Hennigar, Grade 4/5 Teacher, BLT Senior Elementary School
Timberlea, Nova Scotia, Canada
“The software has lesson plans based on many state standards with many modules to choose from. Maker’s Empire can be used to teach science, math and even art, K-12. The 3D-printing course was not as challenging as the grade level I was given — first graders!... However, their enthusiasm and absolute thirst for knowledge is awesome to see. They blaze through the challenging 3D lesson plans… Seeing the students faces when the IT team at BPY brings the 3D prints to the classroom is just something I can’t describe. The best part is while walking in the hallway with the huge iPad cart, some eighth graders ask who made that. I point to the first graders, who grin ear to ear.”
Shneur Garb, Ben Porat Yosef Yeshiva Day School
New Jersey, USA
"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
"The software is easy to use and kid friendly... The curriculum has been great and it even fits into the objectives that I am currently teaching... When we first started using the curriculum I thought it was going to be a huge task getting my students to learn this. But instead of teaching, I have become a facilitator. They have really taken off and are helping each other solve problems. When we end our day I may about 20 designs that were created, but when we start the next day I see that number increase to about 50. They are even designing at home."
Irene Barry-Philord, Teacher, Eneida M. Hartner Elementary
Miami, Florida, USA
"This was the best PD that I have been involved in for ages... This whole project has been inspiring for teachers and students in empowering students to become change makers. Our students were so engaged and excited about solving a real world problem... The fact that they could see they could help someone through their own design, meant their learning was authentic and valued."
Bianca Laister, Deputy Principal, Birdwood Primary School
Birdwood, South Australia
“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
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
"Makers Empire is friendly towards all ability groups and help engage students who are less motivated to be working in the classroom. It gives students the opportunity to be creative and learn by trial and error in a digital format. On paper some students get disheartened when drawing designs and have to erase mistakes and makes their work look messy. Using this program it is simple to remove mistakes. I think this has been a fantastic tool to have in the classroom. I have many teacher friends and have actually shown them the program and they are all very impressed."
Aaron Vigor, Teacher, Yankalilla Area School
Yankalilla, South Australia
"I have worked with several design software but Makers Empire is the easiest to use... One of the best things students learned is that it is okay to not get the "right" answer the first time, or second time. Students know that "failing" is part of the design process and problem solving. Students have expanded their problem solving skills to think more outside of the box... Before, my students were limited in their STEM applications and designs due to financial issues and materials available. Now each student is able to have an account for their designs and can work at their pace which is meeting them on their individual need. Through this, my after school STEM club has gained interested to where students had to be put on a waiting list. Students have discussed participating in STEM clubs in middle school and high school as well as more interest in engineering type careers."
Casey Corn, STEM Teacher, Chesnee Elementary School