Bachelor thesis project on the introduction of 3D modelling and printing in primary schools in Italy through an involving workshop format.
The goal of the project was to research the possibilities and the methods with which these innovations can be understood and eventually used and integrated in the educational field. For some time, various projects have been launched to put children, the so-called “digital natives”, in contact with these new technologies. Recently, also Italy’s government seems to have become aware of the importance of educating kids also in the most advanced technological fields.
Actually, Italian schools aren’t always equipped with internal resources and structures to proceed in this direction. As a designer, having a personal knowledge and experience of digital modelling and 3D printing, I have questioned myself upon how I could mediate their comprehension in the school’s context. I introduced myself into a school’s context and, starting from a direct experience with teachers and children, I made and analysed an educational path based on practice, team-work and playing.
The workshop is structured in 5 different steps, each with the purpose to make the children understand a precise process behind 3D technology.
1° – Presentation
At first I present to the class the workshop, explaining what is 3D printing and showing a video that inspires them and introduces the playful atmosphere of the exercises.
2° – From 2D to 3D
Two exercises explain this concept. In the first one I hand the children some solids and cards which they have to match. In this way they understand immediately the difference between flad and 3D, and how different objects can have the same surfaces.
In the second exercise I gave them 2D flat paper shapes that had to be folded and built together forming a 3D stacked puzzle. Through a game the children began seeing those 3D shapes that they would then find on a free online CAD software and to touch with their hands the difference between 2D and 3D.
3° – Extrusion and layering
I hand out play-doh and an extrudor that allows them to extrude the malleable material in different geometrical shapes. The children then make their creations out of these gemetrical shapes, the same ones they will use then to make that object digitally.
4° – Axes and coordinates
I then demonstrate the concept of axes and coordinates, the data which controls the printer, making a grid on the floor of the classroom using stickers and making children move on it using coordinates, axes x and y. Then one of them passes a rope through their special necklace making three layers of rope demonstrating also the z axis.
This exercise is then replicated in smaller scale, the children in pairs extrude play-doh following the coordinates indicates on the exercise sheet, shaping the layered perimeter of a shape.
5° – 3D Modelling and printing
Finally I brought the children in the ICT room to start modelling digitally their creations which they previously made with play-doh using the same geometrical shapes provided by the online software. So they immediately made a connection between what they had done manually and what they could do with the CAD software.
I then printed their creations and gave them to the children to play with on a map which I left in the classroom for them to keep. In this way I left them a trace of this experience to encourage them to experiment again with this technology.