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Pop Quiz: 3-D Printers in Schools

There has been more than a bit of buzz around 3-D printing in the last few years. This technology promises to revolutionize manufacturing on small scales, in the way 2-D printing made it easier to run ones own business from home. It also has promise for educators and students, especially in light of increased focus on incorporating more engineering practices into the science classroom.

Recently, a middle school in my former hometown of Charlottesville partnered with the University of Virginia to bring 3-D printing to their classrooms so that students could make, and thus understand better, their own audio speakers. Bonus: a film crew from Japan came out to observe the process. At a teacher professional development workshop in East St. Louis last month, several of my colleagues at SIUE used the campus 3-D printer to make up bizarre shapes to demonstrate potential wells, such as one would deal with when teaching electromagnetic fields or gravity. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, or the amount of plastic you have. And, really, size of your printer.

So what would you make with your students if you had access to a 3-D printer? Is this a “gee whiz” toy or a really useful tool or completely revolutionary? 

The Pop Quiz is a question for you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image: a 3-D printed model of Vesta, split into two hemispheres. Photo under Creative Commons by the author.

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Nicole

Nicole

Nicole is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at a small liberal arts college. Her home on the internet can be found at One Astronomer's Noise.

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