8th Graders

How 3D Printing Inspires 8th Graders to Explore STEM Careers

What do you do on a snowy day in Minneapolis, Minnesota?

Inspire curiosity. Make the future.

On February 3,2016, Minneapolis Public Schools brought tech industry representatives, educators and eighth graders together for hands-on STEM exploration, intended to stimulate future innovators, designers, inventors, manufacturers and engineers.

Middle school students received an introduction to 3D printing and learned more about STEM-related careers at the Stratasys hands-on exhibit.
Middle school students received an introduction to 3D printing and learned more about STEM-related careers at the Stratasys hands-on exhibit.

“The 2016 STEM & Career Exploration Expo allowed Minneapolis Public Schools students to explore career options that have an impact on society: careers that lead to new ideas, new products, healthier lives and a safer environment,” said Jill Bjorklund, Event Organizer and Minneapolis Public Schools STEM & Career Readiness Special Projects Coordinator.

With the help of educators from neighboring Minnesota District 196 – Jim Lynch of Apple Valley STEM High School, Luke Podmers of Valley Middle School of STEM and Ryan Erickson of Cedar Park STEM Elementary – Stratasys put the power of 3D printing into students’ hands, many for the very first time. “It was a great day for kids and learning opportunities. I was amazed at how many kids today still don’t know about 3D printing and how intrigued they are,” said Stratasys Channel Partner Nate Thiesfeld of Haldeman Homme, which supplied a uPrint SE 3D printer for the event.

Students learning about the 3D printing workflow from concept design to manufacturing of the product.
Students learning about the 3D printing workflow from concept design to manufacturing of the product.

At the hands-on Stratasys exhibit, students had a chance to try 3D design software, observe a working industrial-grade 3D printer, check out other student projects, ask questions and take home a sample part.

“I know it was a bit crazy with 10 inches of snow, but from seeing how the students reacted to what we were able to show them – it was all worth it. The middle-schoolers had a real natural curiosity; we just fanned the flames with the potential applications 3D printing offers. The sad part is that many will go back to their schools and not have access to this technology, at least not yet,” said Ryan Erickson, master teacher and Cedar Park Elementary School’s Maker Space Coordinator.

The Expo’s tagline was “Inspiring Curiosity,” and the event inspired more people than just the students. “We may have gotten carried away in all the students’ excitement and started planning for the 2017 Expo,” Jim Lynch told the Stratasys Blog. “I have an idea for future events like this with kids. I could recruit our robotics teams at our high school to showcase their own work to engage kids like these eighth graders. Our teams have multiple 3D printed parts on their robots from our fab lab. That would make our booth really engaging for kids while highlighting how 3D printing is being used.”

“Our goal is to help school leaders find ways to increase access to 3D printing and to teach students how to be design thinkers from an early age,” said Dave Benoit, Business Development Director of Global Education at Stratasys. “If students learn the principles of good design and see the results of their own efforts emerging from a 3D printer as fifth and sixth graders, they are going to be more inclined to develop interests in technical and engineering fields. That means they are motivated to take more math and science classes, achieve at higher levels and ultimately help us to close the skills gap that is hampering our economy and causing many to be underemployed.”

3D printing maintains engagement in the classroom, while fostering problem-solving skills that will leave a lasting impression on students. [source: Its About Time]
3D printing maintains engagement in the classroom, while fostering problem-solving skills that will leave a lasting impression on students. [source: It’s About Time]
Looks like the seventh graders in Minneapolis have something to look forward to in 2017!

Looking to inspire curiosity in your school? Check out our free educator resources to unleash the power of design thinking and applied learning in your classroom.

Gina Scala is Stratasys’ director of marketing for worldwide education where she works to listen to the voice of the education customer and translate that into meaningful marketing messages and product solutions that meet teaching and learning needs for schools. Prior to this role she served as Vice President of education & professional development at the Direct Marketing Association. Gina has a strong background in both marketing and education. Prior to DMA, she served as Director of Marketing for a global professional development company, Editure, where she was responsible for the marketing strategy and development for six subsidiary companies. She also worked for education publishers: Sadlier, delivering in-service training, and Pearson Education as an educational product manager. Scala holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the Pennsylvania State University, a MA in special education from The College of New Jersey and she is a credentialed teacher in the state of NJ. She is most proud however of her two amazing children who inspire her each day as they learn about the world around them.

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