Even though 3D printers have been around for almost 30 years, the recent rise of low-cost printers has led some to proclaim the onset of a new industrial revolution. Schools and libraries all over the world are bringing these powerful tools to students in classrooms and dedicated “makerspaces” where they are accompanied by other fabrication tools. For example, China is putting 3D printers in each of its 400,000 elementary schools. In the U.S., are adding 3D printers into schools at a good rate, particularly into CAD programs, but also into traditional art and social studies classrooms and even business programs.
If 3D printing is starting a new industrial revolution, it is well on its way to revolutionizing teaching and learning as well. The result of bringing these tools into classrooms is a rekindling of the powerful pedagogy of hands-on learning. As 3D-VET project demonstrates, 3D printing leverages hands-on learning to deepen our educational approach to traditional educational subjects.