3D Printing for STEM Educators

Posted by Krištof Kranjc, on March 27, 2023, 11:31 a.m.
3DVisualization 3Dmodels MOOC

Črtomir Podlipnik, Krištof Kranjc

Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana, Večna pot 113, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


Challenge and goal

We have all heard about the 3D printing, mostly we have also seen at least some objects prepared in this way, however, most of the STEM Educators might not be completely familiar with the applicability of 3D printing in higher education. We would like to stir their interest in the field, to start thinking which competences they might gain by the application of 3D printing in their education process, as well as what benefits this brings to their students, as well as themselves.

Topic of the user case

To improve the understanding of 3D printing, to provide basic instructions on how to tackle a real problem - the workflow from the idea of an object, via the necessary software approaches all the way to the selection of the appropriate monomere materials to make a durable, aestethically pleasing object, that will have its practical applicability in STEM high education. Additional topic is to show the educators what knowledge, skills and competences they need to develop to be able to encourage their own student to tackle problems that could be solved by 3D printing.


Local context (specific)

Locally, we invited some students to provide ideas and designs of objects that could be used in STEM high education and that would according to their perspecitve improve the TPACK competences of educators.

It is also important to stress that 3D printing is an excellent example of a topic that fills all the components of the TPACK model: (i) its technology component includes knowledge and skills on modelling software, printers, materials, and troubleshooting; (ii) pedagogical component involves teaching with the help of 3D printed models (molecules, geomateric shapes, 3D surfaces, biological tissues, organs etc.), assessment and management of competences and skills, addresses the diversity of the need of different students and promotes critical thinking, developing of problem-solving strategies and scientific inquiry; (iii) content component includes a deep and comprehensive understanding of the previously mentioned object, for example, 3D printed molecular models (structures) can be used to show their relevance and to broaden the concepts in (bio)chemistry. Analogously for other objects as well.

Local CPD goals

Out of many proposals, we selected two that were most promising and seemed to be possible to realize. The first is a simple polymeric clip that prevents the elastic bands of a face masks to irritate the back of the ears and head, thus reducing ear discomfort for people who wear masks all day. This one was selected as an example that should be easily produced and should be achievable by the competences that should be provided by CPD activities in the frame of this user case (as described further). The other object is far more challenging and might need some additional support from educators and/or students that have competences in other fields beside 3D printing. Namely, it is a 3D printed photometer.

Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

5 following online courses / MOOC about teaching and learning.

CPD activities at the local university

This user case involves HE teachers at our Faculty as well as some students in the advanced courses. The main activity should be an active participation in a corresponding microMOOC course that is being prepared by us and co-authors, followed by the exchange of ideas and proposals between the teachers and students. Thus the most promising projects would be further evaluated for their feasibility and one or two of them tested in practice. The objects (materials) thus obtained would be used in teaching.

Teaching and learning materials

microMOOC connected with articles and videos on this topic as well as specific instructions and troubleshooting guides available on-line and supplied as links. Active participation in the TinkerCAD on-line environment to follow the instructions of the teacher and to prepare the object to be printed.


Sustainable implementation

Participation in the microMOOC could be offered each year to the students of Chemical Technology, Chemical Engineering as well as Chemistry (Master study) and possibly to the students of Chemical Education (Master study) as well. This could become a part of a practical course of various established courses, such as Structure of atoms and molecules, Molecular modelling, Computation in chemsitry etc. In the next cycle the same teaching/learning model could be transplanted to other Universities as well.

Expected impact of the CPD User Case

This user case should help with the widespread of 3D printing as a tool to improve the HE teaching/learning process and also to encourage HE teachers to improve their competences in all three TPACK components pertinent to the 3D printing.

Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic

3D printing can be applied in a plethora of areas and study subjects, so eventually this can find its place in many other STEM disciplines besides chemistry and biochemsitry, possibly broader in a STEAM context.

Learning facilitation (person-centered) (type P3-2)

The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several hours.
In this CPD scenario the participants are using a very short open online course, a micro mooc (μmooc).

Learning environment
Several hours

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