Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science 2.0

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science 2.0

Article excerpt

November 2017, Using Web Tools to Support Learning

Use 3D Printers to Teach Design Thinking

A 3D printer is a helpful tool to use when teaching students design thinking, a process for identifying and proposing solutions to real-world problems.

A crash course on design thinking

Design thinking as a concept entered the business world in the early '90s and education later than that. Two founding organizations committed to the development and success of the process in business and education are Stanford University's ( and IDEO ( Before diving into the design-thinking process, it's best to do some groundwork.

Both organizations provide resources (see "On the web") that will help you learn about the process quickly, so that you can introduce it to your students.

The stages of design thinking

Design thinking begins with developing empathy for the effect that a real-world problem has on an individual, a community, or the world. This requires the principal investigator to define questions to a "What if.." statement that leads into one of the most exciting stages of the process: ideation. In this stage, students begin to develop plausible or possible solutions to the problem, without bias or limitations.

In the latter stages of the process, students need to develop prototypes of the possible solutions to the problem. The ability to quickly design using tools such as Tinkercad ( or SketchUp ( makes the rapid prototyping process quick and relatively easy without ever even having to print a thing.

During the test phase, however, students need to print their designs, possibly more than once, to check the effectiveness of their product. This can be a lengthy task if students don't have the materials or resources readily available to begin developing and iteratively changing the versions of their concepts. …

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