Developing 3D Printing Curriculum in K-12 Education
Technology Professional Development Specialist, Rebecca Buckhoff creates and implements 3D printing curriculum for Moreno Valley Unified School District.
With a new workforce emerging that needs increasingly complex technical skills, there is a growing need for students to learn about 3D modeling, 3D printing, and additive manufacturing. Enter Technology Professional Development Specialist for Moreno Valley Unified School District, Rebecca Buckhoff. She initially learned about 3D printing at an educational technology conference in 2015, and once she observed 3D printing moving into education and learning for K-12 schools, she knew she had to get involved to keep her programs relevant and competitive.
Soon after, she acquired a 3D printer for work and began to develop lessons and instructional uses for the classroom. In 2017, she launched a program to get elementary teachers and schools involved in 3D printing across her entire district. Rebecca realized that there were large gaps in the availability and quality of then-current 3D printing curricula and STEAM education, and she wanted to create opportunities for more students to participate and learn about related subjects, like coding and robotics, as well. Rebecca is actively involved in being a champion for access and equity in education.
Of course, Rebecca took a deep dive into 3D printing so she could be as informed as possible to pass along the importance of her new programs to the district. This involved mastering several different types of 3D printers, including Monoprice, New Matter, Makerbot, LulzBot, Affina, Prusa, and more. From troubleshooting to basic operations, Rebecca claims there is no 3D printer she can’t unclog!
Being conscious of budgets and basic principles for her students, most of her 3D prints are completed with PLA, but she is loving the different properties of PETG and is starting to learn more about it. She has worked with ABS, but because it is finicky and stinky, it doesn’t make a very good classroom filament. She is also improving her flexible filament 3D printing skills and is looking forward to using more of it in the future.
Rebecca uses Tinkercad as her main modeling software and she’s not ashamed to say it! “It’s what I teach kids and teachers, and I love the updates they have added. I think the codeblocks feature is a great link to other coding programs students are using. Tinkercad is an excellent way to start 3D design from Kindergarten to adult learners.” The fact that it is free and browser-based also makes it very appealing from an educational standpoint.
Aside from her educational printing, she prints on her own and has developed her skills. Occasionally use paints or adds other media to some of her 3D prints. She finds that because she has her 3D printer dialed in so well, most of her prints come out looking amazing and don’t need a lot of post-processing.
3D printing has become something that started as an interest at work but became a hobby that Rebecca is very passionate about. “I love the creativity behind it. It’s not just printing a plastic object, it is an act of creation. From the modeling and filament choices to finishing and photography, the options for 3D printing are limitless.”
“With 3D Printing, the students and teachers I work with are able to understand something in a completely different way than they previously imagined. This increases their creativity. They are limited only by their imagination. I am inspired by a variety of different sources and I hope my students learn how to channel their creative inspiration.”
Of course, one of the great benefits of getting into 3D printing is the awesome community. “One of the things I am really enjoying is the 3D printing community. I like having the opportunity to get feedback, make friends and share ideas with a global community. The best connections I have are with other educators and women in making. The perspective of women in making is valuable because it is a voice that isn’t heard often enough. Our young girls need to realize that making is for them, too. Young women are preparing for these new careers in 3D modeling and printing - and those careers need to prepare for them because they are stepping up.”
For the future, Rebecca hopes to see more affordable access to 3D printing, “I would like to see a faster, more reliable and more affordable 3D printer. In education, I would like to see teachers utilize technology to encourage creativity,collaboration, communication and critical thinking. I think 3D printing can help with that.”
She also hopes to see 3D print queues as an option for teachers, to eliminate some of the more time-heavy investment that sometimes comes with printing in the classroom.
Rebecca is constantly developing and searching for quality project ideas for students from K-12th grade. This year she has started a GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science) club for 4th and 5th-grade students who need mentoring and support. She is very excited about the projects they are tackling!
If you would like to learn more about Rebecca and the lessons in 3D printing she is developing for classrooms, you can visit her site here:
If you would like to see a short video of Rebecca’s progress in 3D printing, click here:
For an awesome article about how to build a strong 3D printing program at your school, read Rebecca's EdTech article here:
If you or someone you know is doing something awesome, amazing, revolutionary or fantastic with 3D printing, let us know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and you may be featured in an upcoming MatterHackers Minute!