Geometry can be hard for students to understand, with its sine and cosine and its many other facets that can be difficult to comprehend. The trick is to make it more concrete, which makes it a great deal easier when they design something and then get to see it actually physically take form.
Just make sure they don’t just “Do something” and instead make sure they make the calculations and take the actions they need to. In that way, they’ll be in a much better position to learn the underlying theory and come out of the experience a great deal wiser about geometry.
Fun with Physics
Similarly, what about designing things like catapults and trebuchets, and then seeing if you can figure out how far the objects will fly and how much force the object can deliver? In this way, people can learn a great deal about arches and how force gets transferred to an object, and more.
Even better, combine this with a history class to give the students an in-depth understanding of the ideas and problems that ancient people faced.
Your students will remember your class forever as they launch projectiles across the room in the name of science!
Construction and Loads
Give your students the chance to build something that will really test their math skills, like a bridge or a building. In this way they get to practice the meaning of load, and bearing and in other ways understand topics that otherwise might have remained incredibly abstract.
Really, this is a golden opportunity to allow your students to see what it means to be an engineer, as they design things and then get to see how those things actually look when they really build them.
If there is any way for you to create true passion and help fill the shortage for engineers that our country faces, then it has to be by actually letting people dream up something and build it, wouldn’t you think?
Create 3D Forms
Another great idea is to challenge your students to create a form with specific attributes. For example, you might want to challenge them to create a shape with a certain number of equally shaped sides, or with so many 30-degree angles. The older your students are, the more difficult you make the project. Even classic car parts can be 3D printed!
As long as you make the conditions sufficiently open (don’t demand complete symmetry, for example), you’ll be surprised with what kind of shapes they can come up with. Some might indeed go for a more traditional shape. Others might instead choose to create something more artistic. It doesn’t matter.
As long as they can satisfy the conditions that you’ve placed them, the project will be a success. After all, they’ve been forced to think about shapes and forms in a completely different manner and often by the simple act of doing, they’ll have learned something very valuable about something that they would otherwise have to do passively. That will make your student a master of geometry and Essay Kittens as well.
Center of Gravity
Can you push your students to build something with a small base that will still stand? This is a great exercise in lateral thinking. Challenge your students to think creatively by giving them a specific base and a width that the structure must have. Then rate the idea they come up with for height, innovativeness, and how interesting it is.
Make sure you only specify how much of a base they can use without ever mentioning how many bases they can use (maybe one of them will be smart enough to figure out that they can divide the base up into several legs, for example).
Then let them go at it. This is a great exercise in creative thinking and problem solving.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways that 3D printing can give your students opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have and get hands on experience with things like math, science, and engineering that they otherwise would miss out on.
In that way, you might create some true passion in your students for these topics, and that ultimately has to be what it is about, doesn’t it? For with passion, they will be able to learn anything, while without it they will always struggle to become engaged.
So if your school has the possibility to allow you to print in 3D, don’t hesitate. The opportunities are so vast and so fascinating, that to do anything else would be almost a crime.