Education secretary Michael Gove has given the go-ahead for a £500,000 fund for 60 schools to buy 3D printers and train teachers to use them. This follows a project the Department of Education launched last year which funded 21 secondary schools to trial the use of 3D printers in science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) as well as design and technology.
The initiative is part of wider scheme by the government to improve hi-tech education which will, among other things, see students learn how to write computer programmes. The initiative has received the backing of inventor Sir James Dyson.
Michael Gove said:
3D printers are revolutionising manufacturing and it is vital that we start teaching the theory and practice in our schools. 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 pilot programme so far has largely been restricted to design and technology. Schools have been using the printers to learn about the the properties of plastics and build models for science teaching. Honywood Community Science School designed a 3D learning tool which enabled students to create objects with typed code in POV-Ray3. The scheme has proved popular with those involved.
David Jermy, the head of design and technology at Settlebeck High School, said:
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.