Five reasons why learning 3D printing today will help children prepare for the future

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In my earlier blogs, I covered the advice of education leaders Salman Khan, Founder of the Khan Academy, and Dr. Neil Gershenfeld, founder of the Centre for Bits & Atoms (CBA) at MIT. They both encourage discovery and creativity. Dr. Gershenfeld specifically noted the expressiveness of 3D printing. Now I want to add my own five reasons why learning 3D printing today will help children get ready for their own technology infused future.

  1. Getting a head start as the tech will “mature” about the time our children enter the workforce. 3D printers are just beginning to make usable parts. HP’s long awaited Multi-Jet Fusion technology just hit the market this year. Its thermoplastic material, which you can see in this video, is strong enough to pick up a car. In 10-15 years time, 3D printers will be far more advanced, likely linked to AI software, but still in need of the human touch. This is where and when our children will take the controls.
  2. It will be used in many different industries. Automotive, medical, electronics, toys, even food are just a few examples. Let your child design something today from any of these industries and perhaps they can find something they love for a lifetime! If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

3D Roundhouse’s Family 3D Printing Workshops

  1. 3D designs help children think out of the box. Children are naturals at creating pictures with crayons and paper. Imagine how much more creative they can be if that design is in 3D instead. On top of this, they can realize their designs on a 3D printer.
  2. It can promote teamwork. While I really enjoy reinforcing the bond I have with my daughter whenever we corroborate on a new design, I believe she is also learning about teamwork. I have my own strengths and weaknesses and she has her own. We try different ideas until we get to the desired result. (OK I admit most of the 3D prints end up in her favorite pink color, but I think it’s just a phase!)

Elizabeth’s pink bow

  1. It helps them define their own likes and dislikes. 3D printing is all about customization. As children grow, it’s sometimes difficult to know what’s favorable to them and what’s not. Using a computer to design an actual object, children can run as many trials and errors as they want, until they find their very own sweet spot. Self-definition is a key part of growing up. As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true!”

Beyond 3D Printers, the Maker Movement is about Family Ties

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I recently came across an article with a catchy title, “The Maker Movement Is Not About 3D Printers” written by Jay Silver, CEO at JoyLabz/MakeyMakey. Jay proposed, “The Maker Movement isn’t about robots or 3D printers almost at all, it’s really about freedom, the freedom for us with our hands to make the world we live in.” I couldn’t agree with Jay more, but from our 3D Roundhouse point of view, we want to add how much more meaningful it can be if you include the family component.

As technology becomes more widespread and mobile, which facilitates the growth of the Maker Movement, it just becomes ever easier for each of us to lose ourselves in our own virtual worlds, especially if it is to make something. How many parents go home and spend hours on a laptop pursuing some hobby while the children are busy on their iPads? I am the first to admit, this also happens in our household.

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But, once in a while, my daughter and I also collaborate on projects for our home. We are currently setting up an aquaponic system for our living room. (More on that in future blogs.) Of course, I had to sort out the basics like tank location, size and pump capacity. But wherever there is an opportunity, particularly to make the system aesthetically pleasing, it’s Elizabeth’s call. And yes, I used 123D Design to create the drafts for her feedback.

The Maker Movement now has far more tools available than in the past for non-engineering-types like myself. This grants us the freedom that Jay Silver mentioned. But for me, that aquaponic system that I’m designing with Elizabeth will be ours, pretty much forever. It’s will be our own family-made project.

 

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Why you want your family involved in 3D printing

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I was fortunate enough to present at last weekend’s Maker Faire in Hong Kong. This was the first time that Hong Kong ran a full fair, so I was very excited. Spread out across the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, about 20,000 visitors explored some uniquely Hong Kong DIY exhibits, performances and presentations. I thought the color dragon exhibit made of lights, Timely Hong Kong, where each light represented an emotion, was the best.

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In my own presentation, entitled, 3D Modeling/Printing: a new type of family entertainment, I really wanted to explain why we believe families will enjoy making things using 3D printing technology. Here’s a brief summary:

  1. Emotional. This is very easy to see. Any parent who already enjoys cooking, handicrafts, or outdoor activities like fishing and camping with their children already understands the joys these activities can generate. Customizing an object using 3D printing technology only heightens the uniqueness of this bonding experience. Once that model is made and printed, it’s forever the parent and child’s own co-creation. The more intricate the model, the deeper the bond.
  2. Intellectual. Children as young as four or five begin to learn the basic shapes of squares and circles. Creating 3D models takes it to the next step because squares are now cubes and circles are now spheres. But more important than this, children, and even adults, will learn that these cubes and spheres actually have a functional purpose in this world. Cut a sphere in half, hollow it out and you have the beginnings of a cup. If children can benefit from learning fine motor skills, like proper penmanship, imaging the possibilities of learning to draw in 3D!
  3. Practical. It’ll be mom or dad’s birthday next week, so how about 3D printing something totally unique for the occasion? You will save yourself lots of time running through malls and shopping centers for a gift that may or may not exist. Furthermore, as children learn how to design and 3D print objects from a particular industry, they could learn from an early age which industries are the most appealing. At the least, the exposure will give them an idea of what they might like or dislike, and they will be exposed in a fun and constructive way.

At the end of my presentation, a 5-year old boy, Milton, joined me on stage to examine some of my 3D prints. Which was his favorite? The pink jack-o-lantern I had created for my daughter for Halloween. (You can learn how to make one here.) He wants one with his own name on the back. So in just the first few minutes, it’s already an initial step towards this new type of family entertainment.