STEM in Primary

STEM in Primary
A blog for those interested in primary school STEM education

Saturday, 4 November 2017

3D Printing. What's that about?

3D Printing. What's that about?

You have probably heard about 3D printing but maybe don't know how it works and what it is used for. So firstly let's do a quick explanation of the most common technology. 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing whereby the object is built up in layers. Each layer is about 1/10th of a millimetre thick. The printer takes material (usually a type of plastic), melts it and then forces it through a tiny nozzle before  laying it down on the print bed. A quick 2 minute video showing this in action is here.
Before the printer can do any of this the object has to be modelled in 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. There are free packages available to do this. I use TinkerCad but there are many others. If you aren't that skilled at this (like me!) then you can look at communities like Thingiverse where others put their creations online for you to download and then print at home.
Once you have the file from the CAD program (usually a STL file) then you upload that into your printer's software which will slice the object into thin layers and add weak supporting columns to any overhanging parts. The supporting material has to be broken off carefully by you after the print is completed. Finally the printer can start but it is a fairly slow process. Something the size of your pinkie would take around 1 hour.
So why do schools get these? Some might because they think it is a cool new gadget but as with all things I have been talking about the first thing to do before getting a 3D printer is to do some planning. The 3D print can be the final outcome of a project or it can be just a component of a larger project. Regardless, the 3D print is a means to an end so it is the end that needs to be focused upon. 
So what have schools done with them? Often schools do a geography project where the school is mapped out and then drawn on paper or created with craft materials. Schools with a 3D printer can create scale models of the buildings and put together a replica of the whole school. Another school has done a pollution project and 3D printed their design solution to the problem
So absolutely 3D printers can value add to the curriculum but it needs to be part of a broader plan to meet the Australian Government's goal to restore the focus on STEM. It will require upfront funding for (most importantly) teacher training and the printer (may need multiple due to the printing speed) and then some ongoing funding for consumables and maintenance.

Stuff in the news

Kids have a fear of it': Teachers leading national shift in how maths is taught- About 300 teachers are leading a change in the way maths is taught as part of a bid to arrest Australian students' declining or stagnating numeracy results and reverse the drop in students choosing to study maths after year 10. An article from the Brisbane Times 8 October 2017.
Dalby, Chinchilla students to tackle drones, 3D printing - Year 8 students from Dalby and Chinchilla will enter the world of digital technology tomorrow when they learn not only how to fly drones, but also how to print 3D parts and build them. An article from the North Queensland Register 10 October 2017.
Fareed Zakaria: STEM Education Is Important, But Not Everything - Fareed Zakaria discusses tech's effect on global events and preparing kids for an increasingly technical world. An article from PC Magazine 26 August 2017.

Stuff to buy

Coding and Computing Books for Children 8+ - The Tech Age Kids blog has put together a list of the newest coding books to hit the market. 
*At this point in time I earn no money from any product I list and I am not affiliated with any other company.

Stuff in education

All Canberra secondary public school students to get Chromebook in 2018 - The ACT continues to roll out Chromebooks in all its schools. Chromebooks provide a cost effective yet fully capable IT solution. An article from the Canberra Times 30 October 2017.
Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) - A play-based digital learning program for children in preschool to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). One hundred preschools across Australia have been selected to take part in the ELSA Pilot.
Malaysian educators head to space academy to boost STEM teaching - For one week, 15 Malaysians trained like they were going to be the next Neil Armstrong – simulating space missions, coding, survival training, learning flight dynamics – at a space academy in the United States. An article from Study International 10 August 2017.

Stuff to do Australia Wide

Contemporary practices in STEM education - This will be a live streamed event of interest to teachers and parents. It is part of Monash University's "Engaging STEM Education. Keeping Teachers at the Cutting Edge" series. 9 November 2017
5 Podcasts That Will Change The Way Your Kids See The World (and that you’ll enjoy too) - A list of five podcasts that will entertain your kids and they will learn something along the way!
Give a Child the Gift of Science - A great collection of activities you can do at home
CSIRO CREST Program - CREativity in Science and Technology. Engage your students with open-ended science investigations and technology projects through the CREST program.
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Young Engineers Australia - Provides an engaging, hands-on learning platform using LEGO® and K’nex® assembly kits
CoderDojo - A volunteer run programming club
Code Club Australia - A global network of coding clubs for kids aged 9 to 11.

Stuff to do in Brisbane

Brainiac Live - Join the Brainiacs for an actioned-packed hour of incredible experiments and explosive high energy entertainment. 9-13 January 2018.
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SLQ Digital Futures - Each year the State Library of Queensland presents a theme of interest to the Queensland community. Throughout 2017, they invite you to join in exploring Digital Futures.
STEM in a Box has ongoing coding, robotics and 3D printing activities
Brisbane Library Service has purchased the very flash NAO Robot and is showing it off in various libraries.
The Cube at QUT has a number of changing programs. 
Brisbane Planetarium - Features entertaining and informative shows for adults and children
STEAMPUNX - Not to be confused with the organisation above! Offers in-school and out of school workshop programs
Flying Fox Studios - A studio offering programs in the arts, music and construction areas from babies to teenagers in Brisbane
It's Rocket Science School Incursions - Educational and fully interactive project based rocket science incursions for primary and secondary schools in a safe and empowering learning environment.

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