Tag Archives: MIT Media Lab

“Invent To Learn” Shows Impact of 3D Printing and Makers on Education

Invent to Learn Book

Invent To Learn: 3D Printing and the Maker Movement Take Center Stage in a New Book on Education

In a new book, Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, internationally respected educators Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager capture the excitement of the maker movement and share the educational case for bringing making, tinkering and engineering to every classroom.

When 110,000 adults and children attend Maker Faire to learn together, exchange expertise, and showcase their creativity, it is clear that there is a learning revolution underway. Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom is the first book to introduce this phenomenon to educators and situate the lessons of the maker community in an educational context.

As schools embrace exiting new tools such as 3D printing, Arduino, wearable computers, robotics, and computer programming, Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom helps them get the greatest learning return on investment. The book explores these new technologies, places them in a historical context, and advises educators on how to create rich learning adventures in their classroom.

Nicholas Negroponte, Founder of the MIT Media Lab says, “Learning is often confused with education. Martinez and Stager clearly describe “learning learning” through engagement, design and building. The best way to understand circles is to reinvent the wheel.”

Beyond an explanation of “game-changing” ways to construct knowledge with technology, Invent To Learn features advice on effective teaching strategies for project-based learning and meaningful STEM experiences for learners of all ages. The book concludes with strategies for “making the case” and inspiration for school transformation.

While Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom combines theory, history, practical classroom tips, and countless resources, at its heart is a plea to place the child at the center of learning experience. Schools may purchase the technology of the maker movement, but the greatest potential will be realized when creativity, construction, and children are the focus.

Holly Jobe, President, International Society for Technology in Education says,”Rarely does an education book come along that provides a cogent philosophical basis and an understanding of learning, thinking and teaching, as well as providing practical guidance for setting up effective digital-age learning and “making” environments.”

Get the book at Amazon.com or learn more at the Invent to Learn website.

Video: Broad Horizons for 3D Printing – RepRap, MakerBot, and Beyond

3D Printing Broad Horizons

The video below explores the evolution and future potential of 3D printing.

3D printing technology has come a long way, fast. And after two new product launches 3D printing has stepped firmly into the mainstream consumer market, in the process diverging from some of its early roots. In late September Makerbot released its latest printer, the ‘Replicator 2′, geared less towards the 3D printing enthusiast and more towards the mainstream consumer. They’ve even opened a retail store in Manhattan. And that same week Form Labs debuted their ‘Form 1′ 3D printer which boasts a minimum print resolution of 25 microns. The sleek machine was on display at this year’s Maker Faire.

“We were students at the media lab at MIT and we did a lot of work with personal fabrication tools there. And we’re all designers and engineers ourselves, but we were very frustrated that really, really truly professional high design tools like 3D printing were too expensive, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the independent professional designer. So we decided to start a company to make the ‘Form 1′ which is the first high-quality, yet affordable and well-designed 3D printer that you can buy,” Form Labs co-founder David Cranor explained at their booth at Maker Faire 2012.

On the other side of the Maker Faire at the ’3D Printer Village’ was a collection of some 30 homebrew 3D printers, products of the RepRap Project, a loose-knit community that pioneered much of 3D printing’s recent revolution. The project’s goal is to develop a 3D printer that can print itself.

John Abella has been hosting the ’3D printer village’ for three years now. His Frankenstein printer, originally a Makerbot ‘Cupcake’, is typical of the RepRap community. RepRap is open-source, which means any designs produced under the project are free to use. That makes finding replacement parts and upgrading parts especially easy.

“Because it’s open source, people were able to take the original designs, improve on them, get electronics made and then sell them really cheaply, twenty, thirty dollars. So you can keep these old machines going even though they’re not supported and original parts aren’t available anymore.”

And then there’s Jordan Miller who is taking advantage of RepRap’s open-source designs to build 3D printers that can be used to create functional vascular structures.

Miller’s method works by having the 3D printer print vasculature models in a sugar-like material which can then be used as a mold for living cells and eventually dissolved. In proof-of-concept experiments blood pumped through the vasculature was able to deliver nutrients and oxygen.

“Instead of starting with a commercial system, like a hundred thousand dollar machine and trying to make it print sugar, we’re trying to start with these open-source printers, this amazing community that we have here at Maker Faire and we’re trying to have this community help this community develop this kind of technology from the ground up. The open source community and science, they’re very compatible. Everything is science is open anyway, so it’s been a good merge of communities.”

As a potential side business, they’re also using the printer to make custom chocolates.

With the release of the closed-source ‘Replicator 2′ Makerbot, largely a product of the RepRap project, is to some degree, turning its back on RepRap and open-source. After all it’s hard to make a profit off of something if the designs are open source. While some may see it as a betrayal Jeff Keegan says he understands why Makerbot did what they did.

“I’m interested in having the essence of open-source not be hurt. So I don’t want to see someone testing to see if they can close something that’s open.”

He insists, however, that it won’t hamper the RepRap project’s goal of developing a self-replicating 3D printer.

Open-source is here already. Other people doing things on the side may cause problems for themselves, but it doesn’t really affect me… I got bigger fish to fry, getting my thing to work better, designing new things for this, I’m happy about that.”

Video: MIT’s Neri Oxman and Biologically-Inspired 3D Printed Systems

Neri Oxman BIologically Inspired 3D Printing

MIT Media Lab researchers Neri Oxman and Steven Keating are creating biologically-inspired 3D printing systems.

Oxman explains the mission of their lab, “Our goal here is to explore processes for digital fabrication like 3D printing that are inspired by nature with the belief that we are going to emerge on the other side generating and making things that are more efficient and more effective.”

An MIT news piece covering their work describes how nature can inspire better industrial design:

To illustrate this, Keating uses the example of a palm tree compared to a typical structural column. In a concrete column, the properties of the material are constant, resulting in a very heavy structure. But a palm tree’s trunk varies: denser at the outside and lighter toward the center. As part of his thesis research, he has already made sections of concrete with the same kind of variations of density.

The video below includes interviews with both Oxman and Keating.


Neri Oxman photo by poptech used under Creative Commons license.