Community college faculty from across Washington state and several local high school teachers learned how to build and use 3D printers late last month at Edmonds Community College.
Fifteen community and technical college instructors, from as close as Green River College to as far as Spokane Community College, and four high school teachers attended a workshop at the college’s Materials Science lab in Monroe Hall.
“There’s a lot to learn,” said Mary Ann Goodwin, executive director of the Community Colleges of Spokane libraries. “We’re bringing 3D printers into our library collection so students and teachers will have the opportunity to engage with this technology.”
Goodwin didn’t have any experience with 3D printing before the workshop, but, by day two, she and the other workshop participants were able to put together a Monoprice 3D printer, print designs using Tinkercad, a 3D CAD design tool, and troubleshoot mechanical errors.
The workshop was funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, which also allowed for each educator to bring a 3D printer back to their school.
The NSF Additive Manufacturing Workforce Advancement Training Coalition and Hub (AM-WATCH) grant brings together the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU), Tennessee Tech University, and Sinclair Community College to address current gaps in the knowledge base of 21st century technicians working in additive manufacturing, or the process of adding layer-upon-layer of material.
Members of each institution will work together to develop curriculum and educational materials, professional development activities, outreach targeting K-12 teachers and students, and other efforts. MatEdU is housed at Edmonds CC and funded by the NSF Advanced Technological Education directorate.
According to Mel Cossette, MatEdU’s executive director and principal investigator, 3D printing is an emerging technology that will eventually be used in every sector of manufacturing industry, from aerospace to medical.
“This is the way of the future,” she said. “We want to make sure our teachers are prepared and equipped with knowledge about this new technology, so they can teach their students. 3D printing will be used by every sector, and if we don’t prepare our students, we’re in trouble.”
Goodwin is excited to bring 3D printing technology back to Spokane CC’s new Library of Things, opening this fall. She said the library is an innovative concept, and it will give students and faculty access to selected classroom equipment, like KitchenAid mixers and essential cooking equipment for culinary students to check out. The 3D printer will be for use in the library only.
“Libraries are great places for students to explore new ideas, concepts, and technologies in an environment that doesn’t have a grade at the end,” Goodwin said. “They’re more free to explore and be creative.”
Cossette said they’re hoping to offer the workshop again during summer 2018. For more information, email Cossette at firstname.lastname@example.org.