Loughborough University has helped open up the world of 3D printing to primary school children through a unique engineering initiative.
The project, which was funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund, was launched to get children interested in engineering from an early age and offered schools the chance to win their own 3D printer.
3D printing allows physical objects to be built directly from 3D computer-aided-design (CAD) data without the need for tooling and with minimal human intervention. It is already widely used in design and manufacturing industries.
The ‘Tinkering with Technology’ initiative was held in partnership with Loughborough, Kirklees Directorate for Children and Young People, Learning, the Open University and education company Kide. It is one of the first activities of its type in the primary school age group in the UK.
Professor Russell Harris from the University’s Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering led Loughborough’s involvement in the project. He is an expert in 3D printing and is especially keen to explore how the technology can be exploited in new and unconventional areas.
To take part in the initiative teams of children from different schools had to put forward pitches for why they would like to have a 3D printer and what they would use it for. Birkenshaw Primary School came out on top after they demonstrated some novel ideas for their use of the 3D printer to produce personalised toys, which they could trade between one another. This grasp of entrepreneurship especially appealed to the judges.
As well as receiving the printer the school was visited by Dejan Mitrovic from Kide, who helped the children engage with 3D printing in exciting and innovative ways through hands-on activities.
Professor Harris said: “Initiatives like this are essential in inspiring the next generation of budding engineers. We were delighted to be able to take part in this project and show young children just how exciting engineering can be. Additive manufacturing and 3D printing has the potential to transform how and what we can manufacture. The highly visual nature of immediately transforming their ideas and designs into parts which are then ‘grown’ in a very short time really captured the interest and inventiveness of the children.
“We hope that activities like these might spawn a long term interest in technology and innovation, both personally and academically. We were extremely impressed by the speed at which children of this age were able to grasp and work with the techniques and methods. We believe that a major factor behind this was by engaging the children in their peer environment and by learning through hands-on practice.”
Sources: loughboroughecho.net Oct 31 2012 By Isaac Ashe