3D printing, and its ability to create perfect replicas of microscopic particles and blow them up to thousands of times their original size, has also enabled researchers and students to study things like pollen, for example, in a tactile way that wasn’t previously possible. At the other end of the spectrum, 3D printing can scale the universe down to a cube that can be held in the palm of a hand. There’s virtually no limit to the concepts that can be elucidated with a 3D printer, and a group of scientists at the Institute of Materials Science in Barcelona (ICMAB) have designed a course that uses the technology to teach high school students about the growing field of materials science.
The three-day course was designed for high school teachers to refresh their own knowledge of materials science, as well as providing them with tools to teach their students about the subject in a hands-on way. The subject of materials science can be a difficult one to grasp, particularly in a standard classroom setting; what student hasn’t glazed over when listening to a lecture about microstructures? The ICMAB course, however, introduced tools that not only give students a hands-on, interactive learning experience but allow them to use their artistic skills as well.
Each participant in the course was given a kit containing a 3Doodler and several 3D printed crystallographic structures that replicated the structures found in natural materials, including cubic, honeycomb and diamond structures. The shapes, which were left unfinished, will be completed by the high school students using their 3Doodlers – giving them not only a way to better grasp and remember the structures themselves, but also to understand the way nature works.