Ty Peterson from Zaniac Learning took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about 3D printing and their new after-school 3D printing program.
#1 – What was the impetus for the 3D printing program?
We believe that hands-on learning is incumbent to getting kids engaged in math and technology learning in a meaningful way. A creative, hands-on learning environment is essential to our pedagogy, and when we make the classroom experience a fun one, kids walk away wanting to learn more. 3D Printing is a natural fit for this approach.
#2 – How is the program itself structured?
During the school year, all of our programs (including 3D Printing) are structured as 6-week courses, where kids attend 90 minute lessons after school once per week. Each 90 minute lesson focuses on a specific concept or concepts. After each lesson, students are given a Milestone worksheet to show their progress in learning the concepts.
The majority of the coursework focuses on the design process, and we use either 123D Design or Tinkercad depending on the age and comfort level of the student. Kids are introduced to the concept of computer-aided design and the basics behind how the actual print process works. Over the course of the program, our instructors also cover concepts like fill patterns, supports and rafts, scaling, finishing techniques, rotation and mirroring, creative and iterative design, print resolution, print time, photogrammetry, and others. This is all taught using an example heavy, project based lesson guides.
We provide the software, printer, and PLA on sight as part of the cost of the course. Students will walk away from the program with the finished print of their final design creation. No previous experience with CAD or 3D Printing is required and kids as young as 2nd grade can enroll.
#3 – What is the ultimate aim of the 3d printing program? Experience with this new technology? Boosted self-esteem? Understanding of the science of 3d printing?
The aim with 3D Printing, as with all of our programs, is to establish science, technology, engineering, and math as approachable fields, worthy of further study. We aim not only to teach kids specific skills in these areas, but to establish a love of learning that will serve them throughout their educational and professional careers, long after they have left Zaniac.
Experience with this technology first hand demystifies the concepts that are purely theoretical in kids’ normal school settings. What they experience at Zaniac will allow them to approach the concepts they are taught in school with newfound confidence and interest.
#4 – What is the feedback you’ve had from teachers, kids or education bodies?
Our 3D Printing program is very new, so we don’t have a large amount of feedback relating directly to the curriculum. That being said, part of the impetus for launching this program was an oft-voiced interest from our community of parents and students. We have already received attention from various institutions globally who are interested in this type of educational experience, an obvious example being yourself. We look forward to engaging in a dialog and sharing our findings with the educational community as a whole as we learn.
#5 – How has the program changed/evolved over time?
Our very first session of the program is currently in progress, so we are quite literally on version 1. As we collect feedback from parents, students, and instructors over the coming months we will incorporate it to create the best possible curriculum. We fully expect this program to be very popular with students and parents alike.