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.

1. Envisioning animal adaptations on Mars

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!
Makers Empire 3D software

2. Designing solutions to natural disaster problems

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.
Makers Empire 3D printing project

3. Using avatars to make math fun

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!
Makers Empire 3D printed models

4. Exploring helmet safety

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.
Makers Empire 3D printed models

5. Designing a space rover

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!

6. Learning about simple machines

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!
Makers Empire 3D software

7. Sending a robot through a maze

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!
Makers Empire 3D software designing

8. Creating a tool for the International Space Station

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.

9. Understanding different types of transportation

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.
Student is using Makers Empire 3D software

10. Disrupting manufacturing with 3D printing

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 info@makersempire.com!


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.
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