There is this buzz about 3D printers everywhere around you, isn’t there? Everybody seems to be talking about it. The manufacturing potential of products that are being spoken of, seem limitless. However, my interest in the 3D technology is based on two factors; that it is immensely useful for students even at school level, and that I have recently become a huge fan of a 19 year old boy, Angad Daryani, from Mumbai.
Angad Daryani is a young inventor and entrepreneur. He started off being just another curious kid, who then went on to build affordable 3D printers. He is the founder of Sharkits and SharkBot 3D systems. He also built the world’s first e-reader for the blind.
As with education, I have 8 reasons for why 3D printers will be great for students:
- It has the ‘magic brush’ effect. The 3D printer reminds me of the Chinese folktale in which a boy who had a magic brush, could make all the pictures he painted come to life. Every idea a student might think of or concept s/he may learn has the potential to turn into something tangible.
- Any student, no matter what social or intellectual background, will have reason to feel engaged in class.
- Customised tools or learning material can be created for the visually challenged and I just can’t stress enough on that.
- All subjects can be blended like never before. Project models can be integrated combining two or more subjects.
- No longer will special days be needed for exhibition of ideas. It can be an everyday affair in the classroom.
- A student may not be allowed to touch a fossil or an ancient artifact but s/he can touch a print out.
- Learning would be faster as it helps students who lack visual perception.
- It’s important to keep students abreast with technology that will invariably change the way the world functions in the future.
3D printers are already seen as making positive effects in US and European schools. There are various 3D printer developers that have integrated STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) educational curriculum to school programs. International schools around the world have been finding this to be an efficient learning tool for primary and high school students.
In India, as in any developing country, apprehensions understandably would arise about the feasibility and access to such technology. The cost of a 3D printer is over 2000 USD in the global market.
Various entrepreneurs like Angad and start up companies like 3Dexter have been finding ways to reduce its cost to suit Indian conditions and hopefully there will be more following suit. With small print- shops opening, students from different schools will have opportunity to use it. MED group is one of the largest educational publishing house in India to have introduced its K-12 educational program.
Indians have been quick to adopt technology that helps teachers and students. Projectors, smart boards, learning apps, tablets, laptops etc are already being used in classrooms. “Children are observant and naturally curious. Audio- visuals in class have always been useful to capture their attention while at the same time keeps them focused on one thing at a time” says grade 5 teacher, Ms Bindu John, at Indian School Wadi Kabir, Oman.
However it is also true that the percentage of schools that use them constitute only a small portion of the total number of schools in India.
Mobile schools for street kids is a great idea but it is not widespread. Digital classrooms are a great idea too but is not implemented enough. Educational expansion through technology is important and necessary for the country. However, unequal access to that technology is a problem. So what can be done more? Can our students benefit if the elite schools in our country have summer schools, workshops and educational pilot programs including those that will introduce 3D printers for the lesser privileged students? Well, just a thought!