Last Thursday 24th October 37 students from Hawkesdale College were at school at 6.00am, ready for a four hour coach trip to Quantum Victoria. Quantum is one of the specialist Science and Technology Schools in Victoria, “bringing the world of science and maths to life through games technology, augmented reality, project based learning, virtual reality, robotics and mechatronics.” Year 8 students had selected the 3D printing workshop, while the Year 9/10 elective students chose Game Development. We had about three hours in total, which allowed for each student to create two designs – one in SketchUp on laptops and one in 123D Creature on iPads. Students were able to observe a 3D printer in action and handle some of the 3D printed objects that had been created. Their SketchUp designs (earphone holders) will be printed and posted, as that part can be more time consuming. There are a range of 3D printers on site, from a $50,000 version to a $500 version, and one being put together by Year 9 girls who come in from Charles LaTrobe High School at lunchtime, to build one using 3D printed parts!
So, what are the learning outcomes? Students were given the opportunity to “jump in” feet first, with virtually no instructions, using MacBook and Alienware computers. After stepping through a few introductory activities, they were given the task to create two “key holes” and design a holder for earplugs around them. All students, even our students with special needs (low literacy & numeracy, autism spectrum disorder and ADHD) achieved success, with students who finished early giving peer-to-peer support. Students saw that anything they could create in SketchUp could be 3D printed, but soon realized that long narrow pieces would be fragile. So, “design thinking” was important for the finished product.
Some examples of the uses of 3D printing were shared, as well as the prediction that most Australian households will own a 3D printer by 2030. Joel from Quantum explained that instead of having a warehouse of spare parts, Boeing have a database of 3D “blueprints” that enable any part to be 3D printed in titanium, on demand. In Australia recently we heard about the racehorse who had his hooves scanned to create custom, 3D printed titanium horseshoes, which are stronger, lighter and fit better, to give him a distinct advantage on the track! I like the medical uses – a man who had part of his skull 3D printed and the 3D printed ‘cast’ for broken limbs, that is waterproof, light and allows air and water to circulate, preventing the appendage from getting itchy and allowing the person to go swimming and have showers. There is a duck with an amputated leg that can walk again due to a 3D printed webbed foot and an American bald eagle with a 3D printed beak! Some people believe that in future, we will no longer dash off to Bunnings to buy a specific tool or part, but get online and buy a plan to print one at home.
What does this mean for our students? They may no longer get a job in retail as easily, but perhaps there will be employment for students who can design, create, reverse-engineer and visualize solutions. Ballarat Grammar is preparing students for just that kind of future with their Year 8 Rocketry program, “To Houston…..and Beyond!” http://bgsrocketry.weebly.com/