- 3-D printing is a skill increasingly in demand in the fields of art, design and other industries, and the Fashion Institute of Technology is responding by installing a nascent 3-D printing lab, according to Ed Tech: Focus on Higher Ed.
- The technology can be adapted to a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare and others — and supporters of the new tech say it can also be of great use to those involved in the visual and performing arts.
- Proponents like Jana Duda, FIT’s technology resources manager, say schools should begin small and allow time for experimentation as students and educators discern the best uses for 3-D printing. FIT built its space in an existing classroom.
3-D printing continues to increase in popularity on college campuses, but educators and industry leaders should also determine how to prepare K-12 students for potential experimentation on the college level. Industries should not wait too long: With many STEM jobs, for example, companies only started investing in K-12 STEM learning after the coming gap between available jobs and qualified applicants became apparent. With 3-D printing, educators can introduce younger students to its concepts while it is in its nascent form as an industry tool.
However, despite increased investment by colleges and universities, 3-D printers can come at high cost for K-12 schools with thinly-stretched budgets. How can school districts find a way to democratize the tech's usage among all students so as not to create a new facet to the digital equity gap? Some proponents of 3-D printing argue that the focus should not necessarily be on the creation of the product, but the act of collaboration and critical thinking in groups that leads students through the process.
Schools can also work with colleges and businesses that have access to 3-D printers in order to get firsthand experience if the cost is too much to bear for a particular school. If students could shadow workers involved in 3-D printing on a professional level, they can receive the added benefit of hearing from individuals who transferred their earlier education into workforce skills. Some universities and industries have even partnered to create schools offering students the necessary resources and work spaces to become properly prepared in STEM fields. Colleges and industries could also consider joining forces with school districts to develop a pipeline of K-12 students adept in the process of 3-D printing.