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5 Questions And Answers To Get You Started With 3D Printing

by Drew Perkins, Director of TeachThought PD

Recently I checked in with 3D Printing expert, Zach Lichaa, with 5 questions to help schools considering adding this innovative tool to help grow their teaching and learning.

1. What are the basics that a school might need to know to get started with 3D Printing?

Schools need to choose a capable design software, 3D printer and materials, from a trusted provider, in order to get started with 3D printing. Successful 3D printing programs at schools encourage students and teachers to design objects on software programs like Tinkercad and Sketchup, a reliable 3D printer that has the endorsement of its userbase and the materials that your printer is designed to work with. Ask somebody for help in order to nail all three down as this will eliminate headaches down the road.

2. Why is 3D printing worth the investment?

Any administrator or teacher that has seen kids and young adults interact with 3D printers knows the excitement the technology brings. A ton of curiosity and excitement washes over the room. The most basic reason 3D printing is a worthwhile investment for schools is the added engagement it brings to the classroom for existing coursework. Allowing students to think of a solution to a science, math, history or engineering challenge, and then turn that concept into a physical object with relative ease is a powerful tool.

3. How can 3D printing help grow better teaching and learning?

Related to the idea in question number two, learning takes on a new excitement for students when they’re using their 3D printer to create objects they can hold in their hands. From a teaching perspective, a 3D printer is best used as a tool that provides new ways to teach about ancient civilizations, engineering and mathematical problems, art history and scientific materials.

4. What are some of the challenges schools considering 3D printing should be aware of?

This is a new technology for most people, so expect to have some challenges along the way. Some of the prints won’t come out the way you want them, some of your material might become brittle and crack and the software take a few weeks to get used to. The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate risk, including purchasing a quality 3D printer, good materials and identifying easy to learn and useful software programs. Additionally, there are thousands of users of 3D printers that have shared their solutions to common problems on the web, so you’re never alone.

5. Can you share some examples of great uses of 3D printing to grow teaching and learning?

One of our favorite uses of 3d printing to grow teaching and learning was a science class that designed and created many of the tools they were going to use throughout the semester to do their coursework. This was done at the high school level. At the middle school level and lower, there’s a lot of work being done in the engineering and arts areas. Building scale models of buildings, airplanes and cars, including the parts that go into these items, is both a common exercise for schools that own 3d printers and one which prepares their students with 21st century tools that will provide for high levels of employment.

image attribution:  NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center; *previously published at


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