Let’s keep this in the present tense: America is a nation of makers, tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. I just updated that sentence from a White House press release I received about the National Week of Making. Did you know we have a celebration at a national level around making? It is sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the message came from Andrew Coy, Senior Advisor for Making.
If you wonder about our nation’s commitment to supporting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), then you can wonder no longer. There is basically a team of makers inside the Executive Office of the President in The White House. They are keen on helping students and small businesses figure out how laser cutters, 3D printers, and design software work – so that they can enable more Americans to design and build, with a practical goal of fostering advanced manufacturing in the U.S.
Take it one step further inside the government food chain and you will find the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, to name just a few, that are encouraging STEM.
Let me share a few of my STEM favorites. A few are directly related to client projects I’m doing in STEM, 3D, Education for the Guitar Building Institute, a Materials in STEM conference (both NSF projects), Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS, and the HP Sprout Pro project, but all are excellent resources to consider, whether you are an educator, a student looking for ideas, or a parent looking to challenge your child.
I have talked to five or six educators who have been part of the Guitar Building Institute (National Science Foundation project) and the enthusiasm is simply off the charts. Think about this: At what point in your life did you dream of becoming a musician? Come on, admit it, you likely played air guitar or sang in front of a mirror at some point in your teenage years. So, why not combine STEM and music to create an unstoppable combination? That’s what this detailed program does – shows teachers how to build guitars and share that with students of all ages. Note: On their website, scroll down to the image of the guitar and hover over the many parts of the guitar to see the lessons, in brief.
Most people in STEM circles have heard of the “maker movement” or the Fab Labs initiative from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In essence, they are the same thing, in my mind: Reinvent Shop class. Bring modern equipment into wood and metal shop type classes; Shop class, on steroids, if you will. SOLIDWORKS partnered with Fab Labs to give major access to the makers who hang out in more than 350 Labs around the world. The White House has an entire section devoted to Maker Ed as well.
Dremel is well-known for its handheld tool that carves, grinds, polishes. Did you know that they introduced a 3D printer not long ago? It is appropriately called the Idea Builder. It gets solid reviews within 3D printing circles. The company has partnered with MyStemKits.com for user-friendly lessons (meeting common core standards). I have one in my workshop as part of the HP Sprout Pro project.
A more advanced course curriculum is offered by Stratasys that explains the process of 3D printing from start to finish. This is written for the college level student, but some aspects of it could be incorporated into a K12 curriculum.
Nearly all of 3D Printing involves materials at some level – and while not everything can be 3D printed yet, materials science is at the core of all we consider making. A great educational resource is MatEdU, a clearinghouse of teaching materials including labs, hands-on demonstrations, modules and papers, which can easily be integrated into a variety of courses, class-room settings, and industry. It is aimed mostly at educators, but also helpful for people looking to learn about new materials. In addition, they run an annual conference that I’m helping with (another NSF project) that helps educators learn about Materials in STEM innovations. You can check out their annual event for teachers: M-STEM 2016 here.
Makers Empire offers a variety of 3D printing lesson plans and challenges for kids K-8. They are based in Australia, but their material is beneficial for learning programs around the world and offers not only a support platform, but also software and lesson ideas.
Pitsco Education develops a variety of STEM based curriculum “missions” that allow students to create a variety of objects. In one, Vehicle Engineering, 3D printers are used to construct vehicles and then students can race to see first-hand which design worked the best. Design Solutions allows students to learn about the design and prototyping process.
The Invent to Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom: Recipe for Success is a book based curriculum program that contains step-by-step instructions for 3D printing as well as how to purchase and set up a 3D printer for your classroom.
The technology of 3D printing also allows educators to create manipulatives and building blocks that are printed from a 3D printer. I Can Make offers the design for Strawblox you can print yourself as well as unique curriculum integration kits and lesson plans also help develop STEM objectives for children in the classroom.
SeeMeCNC has developed an online resource with links to other resources including video tutorials. There are several modules that explain the basics of 3D printing and allow students to create a variety of items from step-by-step activity sheets.
One more resource before I close this post: Getting Smart is a blog that I regularly read and they have a great post: Your Students can be “Makers”: 16 Projects Invented by Teachers by Lindsey Own. In fact, here is a short list of my STEM favorites specifically from Getting Smart, the company blog I mention in the Forbes post.
Obviously, there are thousands more sites and resources. No one place has been able to collect them all. Feel free to share STEM and 3D resources that you know about in the comments.