The government has announced plans to invest £500,000 to help schools harness 3D printers in the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills.
The move comes after a successful trial in which 21 schools were given financial support to buy 3D printers.
The government now intends to make £500,000 available so that a further 60 schools can join the programme. Education minister Michael Gove said extending the pilot was vital to help ensure as many pupils as possible could use 3D printers.
“3D printers are revolutionising manufacturing and it is vital that we start teaching the theory and practice in our schools,” he said.
“Teaching schools will be able to develop and spread effective methods to do this. Combined with our introduction of a computer science curriculum and teacher training, this will help our schools give pupils valuable skills.”
The announcement of the new funding coincided with a report looking into the success of the initial pilot, with many schools involved saying their pupils had shown a renewed interest in STEM-based lessons thanks to the use of 3D printers.
Several teachers were quoted in the report explaining how the use of 3D printers had proved beneficial, with James Brady, the Head of Technology at the Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, saying: “With the printer carrying out the ‘production’ of objects, more time can be spent considering the science and mathematics involved in design.
“One pupil stated that the 3D printer had heightened her interest in mathematics and improved her desire to learn; subsequently she commented that it improved her level of achievement.”
David Jermy, Head of Design Technology at Settlebeck School, echoed this view: “All the pupils who have been involved with the 3D printer so far have been inspired by its possibilities. The opportunity to realise a concept or idea quickly into a 3D product is an incredibly powerful teaching tool.”
The government said its pilot programme had clearly demonstrated the technology's potential as a teaching aid.
“Feedback from this exploratory project confirms that 3D printers have significant potential as a teaching resource and can have a positive impact on pupil engagement and learning if schools can master how to use the printers in an effective and meaningful way,” it said.
“The project allowed participating schools to explore potential benefits and challenges of using this technology in the curriculum and to share their experiences with other schools wishing to introduce 3D printers.”
The plans come amid growing interest in 3D printing among enterprises too, with Tesco’s chief information officer, Mike McNamara, recently telling V3 the firm is considering plans to rollout printers to stores to allow customers to have items printed in-store while they shop.
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