What’s the best way to teach 3D printing in schools?


After sharing with you my Lessons Learned after Teaching almost 200 Kids 3D Modeling for 3D Printing in my earlier blog, I now want to do two things:

  1. Share with you in greater detail how I’ve been teaching kids (age 8 and older) 3D modeling for 3D printing and
  2. Examine if I can do it better (your input would be greatly appreciated!)

Cubing from writing 

But let’s start with the questions that I need to ask. Writers and journalists commonly practice various forms of “cubing,” which, aside from being a coincidentally 3D concept, can help me work through the tasks mentioned above. So here are the questions I want to address in the coming months based on these six basic aspects.

The Whos

Who are the students involved? How young can they be? Do they need to have a special skill set, such as good math skills, to learn 3D modeling? Should they have a certain type of proclivity, such as a love for science? Should they be inquisitive? Does extraversion matter? Can they work in a team with their peers?

Who is a suitable teacher to train kids 3D modeling for 3D printing? (Am I a suitable teacher?!) What should their skill set be? Do they need a STEAM background? Do they need an art background?


The Whats

Which 3D modeling software should we teach? Should we differentiate based on the students’ age? Can we teach other modeling software at the same time? Is it worth teaching how to use slicing software? Which one or ones? 


Does the school have a Maker Space, or something close to it? Does the space provide the sufficient IT infrastructure? What brand 3D printer(s) do they have? How are the laptops? Can they properly run the needed 3D modeling and 3D slicing software? What about the virtual classroom?



How often can we run 3D printing classes? How long should each class be? Are there benefits to weekend sessions? What about school holidays? What about during the regular class sessions as opposed to after school?


Do you really need to ask?! Because we love 3D printing! But we should ask: how can we get the kids just as excited about it?


This is the million-dollar question. How exactly should we teach 3D modeling for 3D printing to kids? How fast can we deliver the information? How much can they absorb in a given amount of time? How useful is repeating the same exercises? Would they be able to apply what they learned quickly? How can we direct them to the more practical applications of 3D printing, especially when most desktop 3D printers just print plastic? How can we sustain their interest?

OK let’s look at the answers in the coming months! If you want to add your own questions, feel free to comment below!

The Not Yet So Obvious Benefits of 3D Modeling for 3D Printing


3D printing technology makes progress every day. It reaches more and more areas in our lives. In the years to come, it will be a common thing to get something through a 3D printing service. Today I would like to spark a new idea in your mind and the mind of your children.

3D printing just a few years from now

Imagine for a minute your kids have grown up a little bit. You are about to build a new house in the countryside, on the seaside or in the mountain (or anywhere else you would like to have your new house). You are having a meeting with your architect to decide how to design your house. He tells you all the requirements for energy efficiency, comfort and safety. Suddenly, he looks at your child and asks him:

“Do you know how to create 3D model for 3D printing?”

You are surprised. The architect goes on:

“As you probably know, building technology has improved greatly these last years. I was wondering if your child could design his own living area, so we can 3D print his model for him. You too could model some parts of your house to make it unique.”

Two scenarios

Now, dear parents, you have two possible situations:

Situation 1: Your child and/or yourself have never created anything in 3D. Needless to say, something specifically for 3D printing.

Situation 2: Your child and you have already practiced several times 3D modelling for 3D printing. You had lots of fun and have already several Family Made 3D printed objects at home.

In which situation would you like to be? 1 or 2? I would personally prefer the second situation.

Maybe you are telling yourself:

“Patrick is a nice guy, but it will be long before we can do this kind of thing, like modeling all or parts of our living area.”

Really? Think about it. Building constraints have considerably changed. New concrete allows funny shapes as strong and durable as reinforced concrete without iron rods. 3D printing technologies specifically for the building industry are popping all around the world. They progress quickly. Sooner than you think, you will be able to 3D print the house of your dream.

My advice for today

Begin as soon as possible to think about your new house in the shape of a concert grand piano or the shape of a delicious mango.

First ever Beijing Mini Maker Faire makes impressive start with some fun combinations


This past Saturday, November 7, I visited the China Century Monument Square to attend the “Beijing Mini Maker Faire.” Although it was the first time for the event in Beijing, the atmosphere was quite lively. For me, the most interesting highlight came from the different combinations.

A blend of Western innovation and Chinese tradition

The Faire had four sections: exhibits, forums, stage performances and workshops. Each section featured a mixture of new and old: a small robot from Intel and some Chinese traditional handicrafts such as candy blowing using brown sugar dough to create candy figurines. Arduino and 3D printing exhibits were featured along with Chinese silk embroidery. Virtual reality glasses exhibits stood side by side with face painting from Beijing (Peking) Opera.


Western innovation was very popular because some of the Chinese exhibitors were able to apply some of the Western designs and material choices into traditional Chinese styles in jewelry. These exhibits had the larger crowds so there’s a clear connection for the Chinese consumer to these new ideas and I am really interested in seeing how this develops in the future.


But one of the most interesting combinations came when I entered a crowded exhibit tent. On one side, a group of children were busy hand polishing wooden hand made pieces, like music boxes, rings and kitchen utensils. The pieces were beautifully made. On the other side of the tent, another group of children were huddling around a 3D printer. They were deep in discussions about what models they would create and some were very eager to start designing as soon as they can get home. It was so great that both these exhibits were able to find a strong audience.


Before I left, I sought out the Faire organizers and asked them about their future plans. They plan to run it again in the third quarter of 2016, so I’m marking my calendar!

As these new and old, Chinese and Western ideas continue to blend together, the exhibits in the coming years can only be ever more spectacular and amazing.



Quick recipe for a customized pumpkin


Here are the tools I used in 123D Design to make this customized pumpkin. I made it for my daughter’s Halloween party at school this Friday:


To make


  • Sphere. For obvious reasons!
  • Draw rectangle. You need this to split the top and bottom of the pumpkin.
  • Extrude, merge. This makes your rectangle 3D.
  • Split solid. This does the splitting.
  • Shell. To hollow out the pumpkin.


  • Polygon. To draw one eye, nose and mouth.
  • Polyline. To assist the Mirror tool below.
  • Extrude, merge. To make the eye 3D.
  • Mirror. This creates a second eye.
  • Group. To link the eyes, nose and mouth together.
  • Move, rotate. To position the face on the pumpkin.
  • Extrude, subtract. To carve out the face on the pumpkin.

Name on back of pumpkin:

  • Text. To create my daughter’s name in the model.
  • Move, rotate. To position the name on the pumpkin.
  • Extrude, subtract. To carve out the name on the pumpkin.

Holes for handles:

  • Circle.
  • Move, rotate. To line up the hole position.
  • Extrude, subtract. To carve out the hole on the pumpkin.


Give it a try!

Don’t worry if you get stuck. We’re here to help!



Pumpkin 2

Drawing in 3D can help a child’s fine motor skills


At one workshop we ran at the recent Maker Faire in NYC in late September, we had four children, aged 6-7, learning how to draw a 3D table in 123D Design. Children that young tend to have some issues controlling the mouse and their resulting drawings are proof of that. The picture below shows how one child drew his table in 3D. While the table itself was easy to draw, each leg took on its own life.











We adults, who have spent years in front of a laptop, are all too familiar with where to point a mouse cursor. I guess we take it for granted that mouse control was also a learned skill.

When my daughter was just two years old, we were told that it’s important for children to develop fine motor skills. One teacher explained that there is a connection between fine motor skills and doing well in school. For me, at the least, if she can hold her own spoon, she can feed herself. And of course, holding a pencil is an obvious skill needed to learn your own written language.

Given this, I think most parents would agree with me that if they want to improve their child’s fine motor skills, drawing in 3D could be one way of doing this.