3D Printing Technology in the Classroom: Year 2

This week, my teaching partner, Marc Westra, and I introduced lessons to create excitement and interest around the 3D printer. Similar to last year, we wanted our gr. 8 students to see this piece of technology as being something beyond printing toys, jewellry and pizza (yes, it can do that). While these students had tinkered with the software and printer as a gr. 7 student, time had not permitted an indepth study since it was so new to us. We want our students to see what a 3D printer is capable of, and then some. How can innovators use a 3D printer to meet the diverse needs of society, to help those in need?

 Examples of innovative 3D design appear daily though the numerous feeds I subscribe to. Recently, I read an article from Computer World, “3D printed skin holds promise for burn victims and others”, featuring the work of four engineering students from Toronto who have designed a printer to create a personalized “band-aid”, created from the patient’s own skin cells. My students, one in particular who had a skin graft due to a burn as a young child, could easily come up with who would benefit from this scientific use of 3D printing and how.

University of Toronto

The PrintAlive Bioprinter 3D skin printer works by placing the victim’s grown cells along with other biomaterials into a micro-device, which then pushes them out through several channels.  The biomaterials are then mixed, causing a chemical reaction that forms a “mosaic hydrogel,” a sheet-like substance compatible with the growth of cells into living tissues. The hydrogel is rolled out in thin sheets that can create many layers of tissue.

 Students were then prompted to find their own examples, outlined in the google doc, 3D Printers: Share What you Learn. Similar to last year when we first ventured into 3D, it was fascinating to watch. While they read or viewed videos on 3D topics of their choice, our 3D printer purred in the background, creating a bracelet for an E.A. who was fascinated by the examples I had shown her. Our students were excited to share their discoveries their teachers hadn’t read or seen. Using a shared Google Presentation, students compiled their interests and shared with their classes.

 This past weekend, while my family and I began to watch CBC’s “The Nature of Things: Dreams of the Future”, I was interested to learn the first segment focused on 3D Printing Body Parts, featuring the 3D skin printer we’d discussed in class. The show touched on plastic prosthetic parts, the use of living human cells to create cartilage and bone, skin and and liver tissue. Yah – old news – my gr. 8 students already know this! And some of these segments featured the same 3D printer in our classroom.

 We are all makers, designing, creating with others to meet a need. My husband, a farmer, the epitome of the maker movement (but hates to work on the minuscule parts of our printer), thinks our 3D printer will evolve just like our farm equipment that we continually upgrade – worn out, in need of replacement. My response? “I hope so!”

On Nov. 5 and 6, Marc and I will be sharing our initial, current and next steps on how we incorporate curriculum and 3D printing in our quest to develop confidence, creativity, critical-thinking, collaboration, communication and problem solving in our students’ learning. Please chat with us at MoM on Wed. Nov. 5 and at Bring IT, Together 2014  #Bit14, Thurs. Nov. 6 in Ballroom B.

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