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How to Select a 3D Printer for the K-12 Classroom

How to Select a 3D Printer for the K-12 Classroom

3D printers are taking the K-12 classroom by storm as the "maker movement" and investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects grow.

Several years after the first introduction of the high-tech printers into K-12 classrooms, The District Administration is offering educators tips on how to select the best device to use as a learning tool versus a cutting-edge toy.

3D printers are making their way into more and more K-12 classrooms thanks to the reduction in price for the impressive machines. Whereas in 2010, according to the article, 3D printers could cost districts anywhere from $15,000-$20,000, districts can now purchase the device for a much more reduced cost of $2,000.

"Now, because of the reasonable cost and high usage, students are leading the way in turning their ideas into viable products," the article said.

But there are still many different kinds of 3D printers out there, and selecting the best model is imperative when making the initial investment.

"Each printer company has its own school-focused offerings. A hands-on learning guide and bundled kits along with a curriculum could integrate engineering concepts with core academic knowledge in science, math, art and 3D printing technology," the article said.

The article recommends three important factors to consider when selecting what 3D printer to purchase.

First and foremost, districts should do as much research as possible to ensure the printer is reliable.

"Because 3D printer technology is at an early stage, the prints often fail—sometimes there is a software glitch, the filament is bad or there is too much heat. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn as much as possible about the reliability of the printer. "

Another important factor to consider is ease of use as people with varying skill levels will be operating the devices; the easier to understand the technology, the better. 

And despite the significant reduction in cost, 3D printers will likely become outdated within two years, so districts need to be ready to take on the cost of upgrading the technology frequently.

After deciding whether to purchase a 3D printer and what printer to purchase, districts need to be aware that the work isn't done there. 3D printers require a lot of maintenance and support, such as considering network compatibility and regularly selecting and purchasing printing materials. Luckily, according to the article, printing materials are relatively cheap.

But once the device is purchased and up-and-running, it provides students with a one-of-a-kind learning experience that will expose them to how projects are tackled in the professional world and allows them to partake in powerful project-based-learning.

"One student, for instance, created a mind-controlled 3D hand that can grasp a ball and then drop it. Another student developed a complex track system for snowmobiles—so if one of the track pieces breaks, it can be replaced easily with a new, 3D-printed part," the article said.

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

08/26/2015

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