by Drew Shark on May 17, 2018

Technology is changing the way people learn in the classroom. Teachers are harnessing the power of computers, software, and programs to create an interactive space for students.

A 3D scanner is an important element within STEAMLabs; scanners directly link the arts, sciences, and technology sectors in one activity. A 3D scanner scans small to medium sized objects and creates 3D models in custom computer software. These digital models can be manipulated for artistic design, measurement, or 3D printing.

Affordable 3D scanners and software are changing education in these five major areas:

  1. Accelerating three-dimensional learning;
  2. Increasing engagement with core topics by moving from abstract to interactive;
  3. Introducing the design process in a quick, easy way;
  4. Bridging the physical and digital within the classroom;
  5. Integrating hands-on with digital work in creative art projects.
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1. 3D Scanning Accelerates Three-Dimensional Learning

3D scanning fits perfectly into the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) project-based, three-dimensional learning strategy. Objects must be physically crafted, sourced, or researched before they are scanned. The scanning process is iterative and requires experimentation, analysis, and computational thinking. Classroom applications run the gamut—from 3D printing, digital modelling and manipulation, to digital display on a classroom blog or student portfolio. Having an accessible 3D scanner allows teachers to ‘check more boxes’ for one project.

3D scanning enacts the NGSS cross-cutting concept for teaching scale, proportion, and quantity. Students can scan real-life objects, alter their measurements on a digital platform, and identify how scale affects structure and performance.

The educational resource site Learn By Layers contains tons of great ideas for teachers ready to include 3D technology in their programming.

2. It Helps Students Move from Abstract Concepts to Interactive Learning

3D scanning encourages interaction. When students use 3D scanners, they inject abstract concepts with energy. Students can experiment with modeling core disciplinary topics from the life and sciences, including: topography, body processes, molecules, and the earth’s systems.

Ninth grade students used 3D printing to create a WWII timeline. The project included research, a written essay, a video, and designing and printing a representative artifact for each event.

Today’s educational environment is geared toward teaching kids about science and engineering practices in a collaborative format. Group work involving a 3D scanner provides an opportunity for planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, designing solutions, building theories from generated evidence, and communicating information.

3. 3D Scanning Makes the Design Process Quick and Easy to Learn

3D scanning is used in RPD (Rapid Product Development) to effectively compress product design and development cycle time. Speeding up the design process gives students more freedom to play, initiate, and follow through on their ideas within the time constraints of classroom scheduling. 3D scanning circumvents the long hours required to build 3D models from scratch in computer software, and students gain a sense of ownership and accomplishment when they scan their own models, rather than snag a pre-made model off of Thingiverse or Shapeways to use in their projects.

Simon Biggs, Education Liaison Officer for Wales at Renishaw, demonstrates additive manufacturing for students with help from the Matter and Form 3D Scanner and a Renishaw 3D printer.

3D scans allow students to physically and then digitally model abstract concepts. They also allow for reverse engineering; where objects lacking technical drawings are deconstructed and understood. Students can create, scan, and study the nature of a piece of equipment or part. After being studied, the model can be reshaped, resized, or repurposed, to fit a new circumstance, or students could be challenged to recreate their own version of a pre-existing structure.

“3D scanning is all about student empowerment,” says Jim Flanagan, chief learning services officer at ISTE. “It teaches them industry principles such as human-centered design, which includes everything from ideation to rapid prototyping. That enables a broad group of students to deeply understand these important concepts.”

4. It Helps to Bridge the Digital and the Physical in the Classroom

The classroom is transitioning to an increasingly online environment, with social media, apps, blogs, and computers taking a more central position in reinforcing curriculum. Students are encouraged to present their ideas using digital tools and work in collaborative groups to use tech cooperatively.

Wouldn’t this awesome smashed pop-can art from the Art at Becker Middle School blog look amazing in 3D?

This landforms modelling project could have been easily scanned and posted to Ms Third Grade’s class blog in 3D, rather than 2D images.

3D scans made with the Matter and Form 3D Scanner can be saved in a variety of file formats and inserted into PowerPoint, Word, and PDF documents. The scans can be published in their interactive form on the web through bevelpix.com, then shared on a class blog or used as part of a student’s personal web-based portfolio. Models uploaded to bevelpix.com are compatible with viewing on devices with low processing power such as tablets and smartphones.

5. 3D Scanning Integrates Hands-On Learning with Digital Work

The process of modelling curriculum concepts is becoming a core activity in modern classrooms. The ability to 3D scan hands-on modelling of science subjects opens up further avenues for students to analyze and experiment with data in a digital format.

Cedar Park Elementary School students sculpted, scanned and 3D printed human anatomy models.

The Future Of 3D Scanning in the Classroom

3D scanning offers a unique hands-on avenue for discovery and inquiry into disciplinary core ideas. The process of creating 3D models from crafted or sourced objects can stand alone as an investigative project, but 3D scanning also represents a source of fresh, interactive content to enrich and enhance other class projects and assignments.

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