The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Year 10 take 3D printing to the Junior School

Less than five years ago, the concept of 3D printing for the purpose of rapid prototyping was considered progressive technology in the classroom. Through our Design and Technology courses, boys are now tasked with designing solutions to complex real-world problems where the use of 3D printing technology is an expected skill that is used throughout the design cycle. Learning centred around solving authentic problems has been evidenced to have powerful outcomes for boys' development as they more readily engage in the activities and take ownership over their learning. The intrinsic motivation that a student draws upon is far more powerful when they are continually making choices about their learning since understanding new concepts or acquiring new skills is necessitated by the desire to progress their ideas. Furthermore, this style of learning is also incredibly challenging since the boys must draw on a broad range of skills in order to be successful.  

The changing nature of technology use is building a generation of creators rather than passive users. In part, designing components to 3D print is certainly a reflection of that trend, but perhaps what is more impressive is the building of the technology itself. Over the past four weeks, the students of the Year 10 STEM course have built four 3D printers from a base kit by working in small teams. Provided with only the instruction that came with the kit, they worked together collaboratively to build the printer from scratch. However, even though having an additional four 3D printers would be advantageous to them, they identified that the younger boys at Scotch could perhaps gain greater benefit from learning this technology at an even younger age. Through their research of the Year 3 curriculum, the Year 10 boys carefully designed a lesson that incorporated teaching Tinker Cad, a 3D designing App appropriate for the age level, and aspects of Geometry found in the Mathematics curriculum. As the boys delivered this lesson last Wednesday, there was a sense of calm and admiration from the Year 3 boys as the older students guided them through their learning. Quick to pick up the concept, they were designing ideas on their iPads and sending them to the printer. 

What is remarkable about this initiative is not the technology, but the learning that took place in both year groups. The skills that are developed whilst planning and preparing to teach a class of much younger students and the benefit gained from role modelling maturity to a younger cohort is an important aspect that our College culture works hard to foster. As much as the 3D printers will remain behind in the Year 3 class to build the imagination of the boys who will have the opportunity to use them, the greatest outcome was the social interaction that unintentionally changed the way in which the boys see their role as a leader, learner and teacher within the school.