Saturday, March 21, 2015

3D Printing!

3D printing is incredible. With a little bit of programming, anyone can print a plastic model of just about anything. The sky is the limit. But these 3D printers also have a lot of educational applications, especially in a math classroom. One of the great things you can do with a printer is make figures of 3D graphs. 3D graphs are nearly impossible to draw by hand, and students can have a hard time visualizing the graphs even with graphing software. But holding a figure of the graph in their hands gives students that extra dimension and they can really see what’s going on. Another thing you can do is create 3D figures to use as visuals when teaching about volume and surface area. You could create loaded dice and regular dice, then have students use probability to figure out which is which. Really the possibilities are endless.
                Recently, I found out about another advancement in 3D printing, which is a 3D printing pen. Here is a short video describing the pen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emUlHFWcHck. This is so cool! You can actually draw in three dimensions. You can instantly create outlines for different shapes. I sometimes struggle with drawing decent-looking 3D objects like boxes or pyramids on the board. But with this, I could draw shapes in 3D and my students would be able to see it right away. It would be really fun to give pens to students and have them create things. They could create and compare different shapes or look at the perimeters of different shapes and how much plastic it takes to make them. Using the pens helps excite and engage students.
                Currently, costs may be a prohibiting factor. A quick search on Amazon showed that base models of 3D printers run around $500 while more advanced models go for much, much more. Currently, 3D pens run about $100-$150 each. However, like most technology, as 3D printers and pens become more and more commonplace, the prices are likely to drop and more schools might buy into them. 3D printers and pens have so much to offer that I can’t wait until we can all use them in the classroom.