When creative minds get together, amazing things can happen. That’s what is happening in classrooms across the country when students use 3-D printers to problem solve. Now, the 3-D printing industry has a solution that’s ideal for teaching. The MakerBot is a desktop version that allows groups to problem solve and participate in projected-based learning.

We were able to chat with Grant Parker of the MakerBot Education Team about how 3-D printing is changing and support learning this week at ISTE 2018.

Corporations have been using 3-D printing for a while, but it hasn’t been celebrated as a learning tool until now. “Students get to actually make the solution they’ve determined will solve the problem. It supports STEM and gives them skills that will be practical throughout their life no matter what career they choose,” Grant said.

It’s true that the MakerBot is versatile. It’s been used in art, math and science classes, as well as other electives, from faux cakes in home ec to topography maps in geography. When classrooms first began to have access to these printers, the problem was they actually started out not quite knowing what do with them. There was the standard of printing a model airplane, but schools wanted to do more than that.

“We started to build a community of teachers who would share how they’d used the printer, and then it just kind of spread from there. We had some offering simple ideas while others were a detailed curriculum. This group of teachers has been a huge part of how the product really impacts learning,” Grant shared.

And, it’s not just the next robot builder that will take something away from using the technology. “Students who become engineers or land in other related fields will actually use these devices. But even if a student’s future career isn’t in these areas, it still sets them up with some great decision-making and problem-solving skills,” Grant added.

Since teachers have played a role in evolving the product, MakerBot now offers certification for teachers. It was something the teachers asked for according to Grant. “We have two certifications in response to teacher requests. You can learn online and earn a MakerBot Operator or Curriculum Creator certification.”

As 3-D printing becomes more cost-effective, easier and faster, more districts are likely to add these to schools, offering a new ed tech tool for teachers and students to think creatively. You can learn more about MakerBot by checking out their website.