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An Interview with Marburn Academy
June 5, 2015
Based on our success in finding several innovative colleges who have fully embraced 3D printing, we decided that we should look at what is being done in the earlier years of education to prepare students for the future. In the third segment of our series on the use of 3D printing in the K-12 arena, we caught up with Kristen Huenemann, Head of Intermediate Division and Kris Kling, Apple Distinguished Educator and Director of Technology at Marburn Academy, a private K-12 school located in Columbus, OH with a very special mission. They have found incredible ways to integrate 3D printing into the lives of their students with amazing results. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.
1) Can you provide a brief history of your school?
2) How and when did you all decide to get into 3D printing?
Due to a grant we received from Discover Financial Services, we were able to purchase our first printer at the beginning of this year. Additionally, our Robotics team won a second printer this year through a student-centered academic grant writing competition wherein students had to compose a grant that outlined the ways Marburn Academy would benefit from the technology.
3) Had anyone in your organization had experience with the technology?
4) What type of 3D printer(s) are you using?
5) What materials are you printing with?
6) Can you speak a little bit about how 3D printing has become integrated into your curriculum? How early does the training begin?
Marburn has a rule that anything that is printed on the 3D printer must solve a problem. This rule ensures that students learn and follow the complete design process through the end result—the print—and nothing is printed without a purpose. We want our students to learn that the 3D printer is a serious tool best used for custom pieces.
7) What kind of reaction did the students and parents have since 3D printing efforts began? How has it helped students with their educational achievement?
In relation to Discovery Night (a concept mastery, demonstration event), parents were amazed by the students’ ability to not only invent a creative and innovative concept, but also that they were able to construct a design that was structurally sound enough to be printed on the 3D printer. In addition, the parents were impressed that every student was able to support their idea with research into why the improvement to the invention was warranted. In short, these were not off-the-wall ideas that could never conceivably come to life; but rather they were real world solutions.
The 3D printer has helped students with their educational achievement as it creates a level of engagement that evokes a passion in our students. Due to the fact that the students know that at the end of a project they will see it come to life, the students get more involved and excited about the hands-on learning. This is so important, especially to the students of Marburn as engagement is the element that helps students learn and absorb the information.
The 3D printing process also teaches students the process of trial and error and, in the case of Discovery Night specifically, the reason for prototypes. For instance in the case of the ergonomic pen that one student group designed, the group had to print multiple times to get everything right for their design.
8) What is the age range of the students in the Intermediate Division who participated in your Discovery Night? How much of the printing was up to the students versus teachers/staff?
Due to the newness of our 3D printer, teachers and staff helped to guide the Intermediate students and to provide technical support. Additionally, in some cases, the groups teamed up with High School students who are part of Marburn’s engineering program and are familiar with the 3D printer and the design process that goes along with it.
Marburn’s 3D printing rule—purposeful innovation—was also carried through to Discovery Night. Additionally, the products that were produced had to be 100 percent designed by the students
9) What invention/tool created the most buzz? What were some of the biggest surprises and successes of the evening? Did it provide further credence to the integration of 3D printing in your school?
We were surprised by the increase in dialogue among the parents and students due to the 3D models. This dialogue and better questions asked by parents helped students build their critical thinking and presentation skills by having to defend their inventions and think on their feet. Additionally, it was surprising that some of the students that were the most successful weren’t necessarily the students that typically performed the best academically, but the 3D models gave them a sense of confidence in their invention and therefore in their presentation.
Having the 3D printer and utilizing it at events such as Discovery Night, has provided credence both internally and externally. Demonstration activities have given the printer and its capabilities more exposure and shown that it has a legitimate purpose within a curriculum. Furthermore, seeing how 3D printing is incorporated, there are always supplementary discussions about how else to integrate it into the classroom. An additional result of the curriculum-driven 3D printing is an added interest in after-school technology programs.
10) What do you think schools and universities can do to better (if anything) to foster STEM efforts related to 3D printing? What do you think are the biggest barriers to a novice getting involved with the field and the technology?
Barriers primarily include cost, but also relate specifically to the industry being in its infancy. Currently, standards are not set, there are competing file types, tools, etc. and there is a lot that can be improved on the equipment and its communication with other applicable tools. In order to combat this, an individual needs to be able to troubleshoot in order to delineate why something isn’t working.
The last barrier would be the common misconception that 3D printing technology is not yet relevant nor does it have real life applications.