Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Importance of Prototyping in Education

It’s very satisfying for me to design and develop products that help students learn. Whether it’s our ZPrinters, ZBuilder or another manufacturer’s prototyping system, having students work with rapid prototyping or 3D printing systems in the classroom is invaluable for them to gain a deeper understanding of the design process, to engage them so they are more enthusiastic and excited about what they’re learning and to help them gain a competitive advantage when seeking jobs or higher levels of education. After all, they will be using prototyping systems when they land jobs, so their education isn’t complete unless they work with those systems in school. I’m not just talking about technical universities…high schools, colleges, and vocational schools can and do benefit and, more importantly, benefit their students, by having prototyping systems in the classroom.

It’s incredibly gratifying to have a high school student approach me at a tradeshow (industry tradeshows often set aside a special day when they invite students studying design and engineering to talk to the different manufacturing companies and gather information for a class assignment) and proudly tell me that they use a ZPrinter and even show me examples of the models they’ve printed. They also can’t get enough of the sample 3D printed parts we hand out at the shows! I always ask them what they like best about the particular ZPrinter they have, and they tell me how “cool” it is to be able to print and hold their designs and they love to tell me how easy it is. Students who have a monochrome prototyping system can't believe that our multicolor models on display came out of the printer in full color and weren't painted...that always draws a "Wow! That's so cool!"

I firmly believe that prototyping in the class gives students confidence and a real sense of pride in their design capabilities.

Are you a student or teacher using prototyping or 3D printing in the classroom? How has it helped you to learn or teach design? Do you teach design without a prototyping system? If so, why haven’t you brought one into the classroom? As always, I look forward to your feedback.

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