3D printing can transform education sector in India

To understand how 3D printing can transform the education sector in India, Dataquest spoke to Prasad Rodagi, Founder Director, Altem Technologies

While at the primary school level, 3D printing technology is just gaining recognition, the potential is much more. For example, students can 3D print cities, historical artifacts, organ parts, dinosaurs, molecular compositions, art projects and get a hands-on experience about the subject as well as the technology.

Prasad_Rodagi_Altem

How is 3D printing transforming the education sector in India?

At the university level, 3D printers have become an important tool right now, with several universities investing in this technology to aid their students understand processes better and build new technology.We need to explore this question in two parts – the primary education and at the university level.

The effect of this is already seen with students building innovative products in the 2-3rd year of engineering. 3D printing helps translate ideas and designs into reality quicker.

However, at the primary school level, 3D printing technology is just gaining recognition. There are a handful of schools that have invested in this, mainly because they are yet to understand the overall scope of such technology. We are headed into a generation of interactive learning, wherein the students touch, feel and see an object to learn. 3D printers can be extremely helpful in teaching subjects like geography, mathematics, history and biology.

School students are learning more complicated subjects than the generation we grew up in. With the comprehensive use of 3D scanners, printers and software, learning can be made fun and interactive.

How can 3D printing be used to advance learning?

3D printing is related to personal learning and thinking skills. Today, education is no longer memorizing what is written on the blackboard. To prepare our next generation for a complicated life ahead, we have to equip them with skills and technical knowledge.

Younger generations are more reception to new technologies and knowledge. If 3D printing is introduced as a separate subject in schools, then it would be easier for the children to develop their design skills, as well as imagination, two crucial skills in today’s world.

Students can 3D print cities, historical artifacts, organ parts, dinosaurs, molecular compositions, art projects etc and get a hands-on experience about the subject as well as the technology.

At the higher education level, we’ve already seen several instances as to how this can be revolutionary. Students have designed cars, robotic arms and more from 3D printing – fully functional and capable products.

For instance, students at Thapar university used a 3D Printer to create an open-wheel style autocross racing car. The students are expected to research, design and manufacture the car on the premise that they have been engaged by a manufacturing firm to produce a prototype care.

If 3D printing technology was introduced as a full-fledged, active course in an engineering college, it will enable students to get a leg up in their field. Several colleges abroad are doing this, since most design companies and manufacturing firms view 3D printing technology knowledge as an additional skillset.

It is not about how this technology with revolutionize the education sector. It is more about why this technology is needed in education to revolutionize the future. Most of the engineers today who are dealing with this technology have to educate themselves first. They are bound by their own limitations in the knowledge, and the process of learning takes time.

3D printing to education is what computers were to education a few years ago. It is the next step.

What is the need to introduce 3D printing in the education sector and what impact will it have?

As mentioned above, 3D printing is about the next generation. It is about enabling innovation earlier, boosting creativity and alternative thinking.

Innovation is not bound by age or gender. It is bound by the lack of resources. A student of whatever age might have a design idea but does not necessarily have access to technology implement the design. It might be a rough concept, but executing it, viewing the drawbacks and possibilities makes it easier for the student to understand further possibilities.

The best learning occurs when it is self-taught, by making mistakes. It is really hard for us to quantify the impact 3D printing will have on the education sector because it is so vast. I have listed some possibilities above, which is an indicator of what we can enable. There is the next innovator, sitting in a classroom right now, wondering how to bring his or her vision to life. Wondering what could be the drawbacks of the concept and the plan. Perhaps the vision could enable a better way of transport, a better computer, a better plane, a better lifestyle.

We believe in quality education because it is a way to enable a better future, not for the person alone but for the entire society. We are providing opportunities for a better life. 3D printing technology is another tool that will help a student jump a few steps ahead in their creative vision.

Can you give us some examples?

Good Shepered International School recently installed a professional 3D printing machine to give students a feel of the frontier areas of design and manufacturing, as part of their Design Technology subject and New Application curriculum. The school believes that 3D printing technology allows students to create prototypes with less effort and in a safer way. Students can learn CAD and produce actual models that they can hold. The machine is capable of creating 3D objects as a direct output with ABS plastic as the model making material. The introduction of such technologies have motivated students to a higher level, and these type of initiatives can bring wonders in the upcoming future.

Are there economies of scale for the education sector to deploy 3D printing solutions?

If this is a question asking if schools and colleges can afford 3D printing technology, then the answer is a definite yes. A good school or college has the best teachers, playgrounds and other facilities. 3D printing technology is another tool, which in the coming years will become as common as computers in schools.

A professional 3D printing setup, which includes a printer, a scanner and the related software might be worth a few lakhs – which is an investment to a school.

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