When I was at school, Design Technology (DT) mainly consisted of balsa wood, hacksaws, sandpaper and the odd bit of perspex. Don't get me wrong, I used to love making those wooden puzzles that had my favourite supercar image stuck on top with glue. Or those 'mini-games' with ball bearings inside whereby you had to avoid falling down tiny holes you'd just made with a hand drill.
But how amazing would it have been back then to have access to a piece of technology capable of creating almost anything you could dream of? What would we have created in the classroom and how would these ideas have shaped the world in which we live today? More importantly, how many more pupils would have left school with a passion for design, manufacturing or engineering?
Writing for The Engineer, Helen Knight reports on how 3D-printing technology is increasingly being used within schools to inspire the next generation of engineers. She explains that having access to this technology is already transforming the way students learn and is providing valuable insight into the engineering and technology world which has previously been difficult to portray - particularly on a whiteboard or through using textbooks.
With entry level 3D printers costing from as little as £500, and large companies such as Renishaw offering in-house workshops for both students and teachers, it's now entirely possible to dream 'big' and then watch the ideas come to life right in front of you.
Exciting isn't it?!
“The technology is able to bring ideas to life very quickly,” he said. “In my time as a teacher I saw that some of the ideas they would design on paper would be too complicated to make in the traditional way, but using a 3D printer they could use their drawing and computer skills to design it, and the machine would create it for them very quickly.”
Pupils can also spot mistakes more easily when studying and touching a physical object, which helps them to develop their problem-solving skills.