Just as the personal computer and the Internet changed forever the face of education, so too will the introduction of 3D graphics.
This point was strongly emphasized by Gina Scala, director of marketing for worldwide education at Stratasys Corp., who was one of the keynote speakers at Keystone College on Thursday, during the grand opening of the institution’s new 3D Printing Center.
3D graphics, according to information presented during the event, is a process in which a digital image stored on a computer is transformed into a solid 3D object by a printer, which creates the object in plastic, metal wax or other materials by building it one layer at a time.
Speaking before a group of educators and students, Scala explained that being able to create solid objects for various projects has given students hands on experience in STEAM - science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. Students as young as kindergarten have learned to solve problems by creating objects via a 3D printer.
As one example, Scala said that fifth grade students were presented a math problem, in which they had to design a container that would hold a specific number of jelly beans - not one more, not one less. Instead of having to work out the problem on paper with a calculator the students used a computer and a 3D printer to design and build their project, which also allowed them to determine what would and would not work.
“It’s much more interesting than a worksheet,” she said.
Another example Scala provided was a full skeleton torso created from the MRI image. The computer scanned the image and students used it to create a 3D duplicate.
Scala said the job market is very good for students who have a STEAM background - something which experience with 3D graphics can help them obtain. This year, there will be 3.7 million unfilled jobs because candidates did not received the necessary training in school, and the number is projected to increase to 8.6 million.
In art, Scala continued, students at Kennesaw State designed and constructed a six-foot tall statue of Zeus via the 3D process. A video demonstrated the various phases of the creation process, as students made additions during the different stages.
One 3D project which seemed simple but was actually very complex was students designing fins for model rockets. Scala said she was involved in such a project, but could not get her design to work properly.
“I was told it’s rocket science,” she said with a laugh. “It’s all about the complexity of aerodynamics.”
Later, during the question and answer period, Scala said there has been a great deal of interest from the medical profession in using 3D printer for diagnostic work as well as the creation of learning tools. Lots of innovations are also being discovered in the robotics field, and even more will be developed as printers become faster and more reliable.
Following Scala’s presentation, James Harmon, Director of the Regional 3-D Design Center at Keystone, provided a tour of the new facility, and showed the college’s latest acquisition - the Stratus Objet 350 Connex 3 polyjet printer.
The $300,000 3D printer, Harmon explained, was purchased via a state grant plus other funding. The printer employ s three colors, plus support materials, and can quickly create a single object up to 350 by 350 millimeters in size.
Harmon said that tours of the Keystone’s 3D print facility is available to high school students, and the college is looking at developing a program in which local school districts would be able to have their students gain experience in 3D printing.