With just 180 children on roll and set in the relative isolation of the Cumbrian fells, Settlebeck School would seem an unlikely setting for a high tech revolution! Teacher of Technology, Dave Jermy often struggles to raise the profile of his department amongst larger institutions where big is perceived to be better. In this blog Dave explains how 3D printing has moved his department forward on all levels and enabled him to grasp new opportunities that were previously prohibitive. He also explains how small can be a real advantage when implementing new technology.

CumbrianfellsSettlebeckSchool

Set at the foot of the Howgill Fells, with a catchment spreading across Eastern Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales, many would perceive Settlebeck to be an idyllic workplace. However our intake of children from across the full social and economic spectrum makes us a true comprehensive with all the normal pressures associated with any school. At a departmental level we have our own challenges: I am the sole Technology teacher and I am responsible for delivering a range of technology related subjects sometimes within the same teaching group. Good teaching here relies on resourceful independent thinking and a flexible approach, so when given new resources we need to be prepared to give it a go.

 

Back in 2012 we were selected to take part in the Department for Education 3D printer pilot scheme and soon recognised its learning opportunities. Through allowing a small group of students hands- on experience with the printer, we quickly evaluated how printers could be used practically in the classroom to enhance learning outcomes.

From 2013 I began to incorporate 3D printing in a more formal way and we now use it regularly in several key areas of the curriculum. At GCSE level, students use printers independently to design components for individual Design projects. They are actively encouraged to design, print and refine ideas in order to produce effective outcomes. We have incorporated printing within our established STEM projects where we design and make components for use in structural and mechanical systems during teacher led activities. Although the printers are easy to use, students need to design components confidently. We therefore give our KS3 students a series of activities to improve their CAD skills, learn the process, but most importantly become inspired by its possibilities.

 

So what is the big deal?

With a relatively low cost and free open source software, 3D printing is very accessible. Whereas students are often restricted in using expensive kit such as laser cutters, they can be let loose on printers without the worry of expensive breakages. Giving them ownership of the full process heightens interest and engagement- the number one factor for good learning.

The success of the 2012 pilot has led to a number of unexpected spin-offs. Our recently learned expertise enabled us to apply for further funding to provide professional development courses and teaching materials. In addition we are providing an adult education course this Spring and have supported a local business in remanufacturing components for one of their clients.

This year, Settlebeck School has been invited to take part in a European wide study on the application of 3D printing in Maths and Science. At our first meeting this January myself and Dr. Kevin Gough, the Head of Design at our partner school in Kirkby Stephen, were surprised to be regarded as experts! Is this an indication that British education might be ahead of the game?   Despite continued marginalisation of Design subjects in this country, it is clear that 3D printing allows for the development of young creative minds. The media maybe making ridiculous claims about the potential of 3D printing, but it is clear to me that a quiet revolution is taking place in the world of making.

Dave Jermy is the Advanced Skills Teacher in Design and Technology at Settlebeck School and 3D Printer Course Facilitator for Cumbria and the North West.

Contact Dave at: jermyd@settlebeck.org

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