3-D Printing in Education: Building New Pathways for Learning

Many people learn best by experiencing information in a variety of ways. For some reading about a topic or listening to a lecture might be best, but for those who learn differently, having physical objects to explore and experiment with might be the key to opening up learning opportunities. In this webinar, Dr. Lisa Wadors Verne of Benetech discusses the exciting implication of adding tactile learning into the equation with 3-D printing. Dr. Verne gives an overview of the who, what, when and how to use 3-D printing to help students engage in learning. (Get the slides.)

Transcript: 

- [Voiceover] Today's speaker, Doctor Lisa Wadors Verne. She is with a company many of you may know, that being Benetech. It's a nonprofit in California that's really led the way technologically in a lot of areas, particularly in literacy. Today, we're very glad to have Lisa here today talking about 3D printing. It's a topic that, pun intended, has really built a lot of momentum over the years. Through her work at Benetech, Lisa really has an inside view of how 3D printing's being used in education, and where future promises are, as well. So we're very excited for some of the overview that she'll give us today as well as some unique benefits that this technology brings to students with learning differences. Without further ado, I'll go ahead and turn it right over to Lisa here.

- [Voiceover] Hi, everyone, thank you so much for having me today. As John said, Benetech is a tech company, a nonprofit, but we're a different kind of tech company. Our mission is to empower communities in need by creating scalable technology solutions. While we also do work in human rights and the environment, our work has really transformed over how 400,000 people with disabilities read and access information. I'm gonna ask you guys on the other side if you could move the window with the poll so I can get to the slides. There we go, thank you. Many of you have probably heard of Bookshare. Bookshare's one of our initiatives. But our overall global literacy program strives to make reading accessible to everyone. We provide books to people who are blind or dislexic through Bookshare. I'll talk a little bit more about Bookshare in a minute. We also run something called Diagram. It's an R&D center that creates new and exciting ways for people who learn differently to access books like math and images and videos and other learning material, like 3D printing. And we are driving systematic change in the publishing industry through our Born Accessible initiative. This is an initiative to make all eBooks fully accessible when they're first created. We could not do the work that we do without the funding of the Department of Education, the Office of Special Education Programs. So we thank them for giving us the opportunity to continue to grow Bookshare, Diagram and Born Accessible. As I mentioned, many of you probably are aware of Bookshare. Bookshare provides books in formats for our readers that lets us increase the text size, listen to it just through audio, you could hear it and see it at the same time through highlighted text, we also have a electronic braille format. We serve over 400,000 people in 50 countries and have books in 20 languages and growing. As of today, we have 421,000 titles. And that number we watch eagerly ever day as we see it grow. It's really exciting to watch that grow. Then, our other work in Diagram is, because we understand that literacy does not stop at just having text, so just being able to access the text in Bookshare is often not enough for all of our users. So what Diagram does is, we are a community of group, and I see that some of the people who are on this call today are actually part of that Diagram community. We set standards and provide tools that help describe images, equations, formulas, charts, graphs, other STEM materials, that you may not get from an audio description alone. And these are really critical because we know that STEM is such a big topic in schools and to succeed in life right now. So we have a large community of experts working with us on our Diagram Center. Then, as I mentioned, we have three, which is, Born Accessible is our third. While we continue to push the boundaries of making all types of material accessible, we are also helping our publishing partners do the same, because we imagine a world where everything would be accessible in a format that somebody needs to use when they need it. So, our vision, then, is to have everyone regardless of their ability to have equal access to reading as soon as it's published. Just because something's born digital, it doesn't mean it's born accessible. So in our work, we are trying to really mesh the, whatever's created digital must be born accessible. But today we're talking primarily about 3D printing and the work that is done in the Diagram Center. Multi-modality, so having multiple opportunities to experience something, has shown to really increase opportunities for learning for many of our students. By being able to see a word and hear a word, like Bookshare does, is multi-modal. But imagine a world where you are able to learn about something and feel it and experience it all together. Let me give you an example of this. On this slide is actually a 3D rendering of a strand of DNA, the double helix. I talk about this a lot because oftentimes when we see this in a book, for students with visual impairment, they may not even be able to see this picture. They may hear an audio description of it, but may not fully understand what concept that is trying to get across. Additionally, people with learning disabilities sometimes look at something like this and think, "Well, that's okay, but it's a bunch of lines "going in a lot of different ways." I tell this story quite a bit, and I wanna talk to you about one example. I was giving a presentation and a woman was in the room, a very well educated blind adult. She had never really understood what people meant when we talked about the double helix, the DNA structure. And I know a lot of other people like her, as well, but that they've never really experienced this complicated concept. And it was really tough for them to understand how it worked in words. While I was speaking to her about it, she kinda had an "ah-ha" moment, where, within a minute of handling this double helix, being able to hold a 3D printed model of this double helix, she exclaimed, "I never understood what people "were talking about until now." and we get a lot of that from people we talk with, whether it's the helix or other objects that they're finally able to experience by touch, and pairing that with what they've heard, are able to fully grasp something. So, the idea of having tactiles in the hands of our learners is really an exciting thing to think and talk about. We know that there are many people who learn by touch. But again, if you don't have that experience and the ability to touch it, it might not be as meaningful in the information that's being presented. So, why 3D printing? Well, 3D printing is just one way to get that. Schools can go and buy a lot of these objects that we talk about in the sciences. Oftentimes, they're very expensive. Oftentimes, they are not customizable. So 3D printing really opens the doors and helps us get to a point where we can create multiple copies of something for the price it might have cost to buy one. We can also make things bigger or smaller. We can put braille on things. So this idea of being able to customize this object, 3D printing is really a great way to get that information out. I was looking at the poll, and many of you have said that you didn't have a lot of experience with 3D printing. And that's not very uncommon. Oftentimes when we talk about 3D printing and 3D printed tactiles, people tell us, "We have one, but we don't do anything with it." Or other people say, "We have one, "but we print a lot of Yoda heads." And while Yoda's pretty cool, I have to say I'm a Star Wars fan, there's only so many Yoda heads we really can have. So that's really what that is thinking about, using this tool, this 3D printing tool, to get tactiles into the hands of our learners. How does it work? We're gonna show a quick video that's gonna demonstrate how 3D printing actually works. You'll see that it's done on a layering process. It's layers upon layers of plastic or other materials are being laid out. 3D printers can print in many different materials. The ones that we generally talk about, and the ones we generally see in schools are printing in plastic. But there are 3D printers that can print in metal, can print in wood, and some can even print in sugar. With that, let's watch the video.

- [Voiceover] Amazing new technology.

- [Voiceover] And that is really exciting, the what's to come. What can we do with these 3D printers? In a moment, we'll continue. You know, one thing I forgot to mention is that we do have someone who's checking chat. If you have questions as we go along, please feel free to throw them out. If there's something that is something that we're talking about right, we can address it, or we can also wait to the end. I just wanted to make sure you knew that, as well. You saw that it was constructive, right? He may have spoken kinda quickly, but it is a layering process. We talked a little bit about the advantages, right? When we talk about why 3D printing, we had that customized little piece. But one of the most amazing things about 3D printing is, if you can imagine it, you can print it. I recently met Stevie Wonder, and he was at CSUN, for those of you who are familiar with that conference that's held annually in San Diego. And in his mind, he has some ideas for musical instruments, but can't figure out how to get them out of his mind and into reality. And 3D printing may be one of those things. So think about, you know, kids who have ideas and may not have the way to get that information out. 3D printing can be one of those modalities. It adds another dimension to what you're teaching. This multi-modal learning opportunity, again, helps those who learn best by feeling and touching and experiencing have something that they can hold in their hand as they're learning about information. When I talk about 3D printing, I think this slide is very important. There are three major steps in 3D printing. There's the design, or the acquisition of 3D printing, and later on in the presentation, I will point you to some resources that you can get some files that have already been created. There's actually the printing of 3D printing. To some, it's very challenging. To others, it could be a cake walk. I think a lot of it depends on the technology that you're using, the printer that you have, how often you use it. 3D printers can be slightly temperamental, that, if you don't use it for a while, it may not wanna work when you want it to work. I've had that happen quite a few times. That is a big component of 3D printing. But the area that I focus on more, and the area that we'll continue to talk about the rest of the time we have together today is really the pedagogy. So, what do we do with those objects that have been printed? What do we do when we have these objects and we're using them in the classroom? We talk a lot about, when should you print? Well, a pretty good rule of thumb is, if something's too big, so think about the Eiffel Tower. You may not wanna have a full-size Eiffel Tower in your classroom, but maybe you wanna show a scale of how big the Eiffel Tower is compared to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That might be a good opportunity to print. Too small, we talked about the helix. For people who you may have to use a microscope to see certain things, but people with some disabilities or some abilities may not have that ability to actually look through a microscope. Being able to print out something tiny might be something that can help them. Too fragile. I have a picture here on the slide of a dinosaur skull. But what if you were teaching about the anatomy of a crocodile, and you had one skull? Oftentimes, teachers will pass around that skull, holding their breath, hoping that it doesn't drop, 'cause they know if it drops, they're not gonna get another one. Well, you could 3D print not only that skull, but you could also 3D print a skull for everyone in the classroom. Typically prints, depending on how much material is used, only cost a few dollars. So having multiple ones might be a solution. And then too dangerous. I went through too big, too small, too fragile and too dangerous. The example I use for the too dangerous is a scorpion. I don't think I'd wanna bring a scorpion in to my students and have them play with it. I think the fact that someone could get stung might not be something that a school wants the liability for. But being able to print it so that you can actually feel the legs, the clippers, and even the tail, might be something that would help people understand the concept. And just because you have a printer doesn't mean you should print everything. Going back to that scorpion idea, again, I wouldn't wanna bring in a scorpion because someone could get hurt. But if we're talk about cats in my classroom, I'm probably not gonna 3D print a cat. I'll probably bring one in and let the students feel it and experience it. But thinking about the information that you're hoping to convey to the students that you have, or the children that you have, that are using these tactiles, really is a guide of when you should and should not print. As we'll go into that, I wanted to show a quick video. We started at Benetec, we started thinking about kids with visual impairments and having 3D printed tactiles be one way in. The more we started talking to people about this, we met many kids with learning disabilities who said, "Oh wow, I could benefit from that as well," and they started using it. And then we moved to a point where most people were getting the information in a way that they hadn't received before. So really all learners can benefit from model exploration. And all learners learn differently. So by having different approaches to learning, give them an opportunity to learn in a way that works for them best. I'm gonna show a video real quickly. Just to give you a back story on this video, a young woman who at the time was at Virginia Tech was studying physics. She was a senior at Virginia Tech studying physics. She wants to be an astronaut. They were talking about some pretty complex and abstract information that she just wasn't quite grasping. So they worked together with the Disability Services Office at her school, her teaching assistant, who will be the other person on the video, and the Computer Science Department to figure out, how can we take some of these really complex concepts and put them into a physical form that she can then experience and see if she grasps it? With that, we're gonna start the video. This is an excerpt from her Ted-X talk that she gave about two years ago.

- [Voiceover] Oh, it does.

- Right, so we've just given you this shape. In fact, sorry, if I can borrow it for a second?

- [Voiceover] Yeah.

- You can touch it, you can see where it's So that, give or take, if you just let it alone on a table, is sort of its proper orientation.

- Oh, okay. I thought it could change orientation.

- Well, it kind of depends on what we're using it for. Right, we're still working out some of these details. In fact, let me, let me point you to, move your left hand a tiny bit to the, perfect. Now this one, give or take, that's its proper orientation. It's not especially important. But you can feel what the maximum feels like.

- Yeah.

- So when she's talking about a maximum, she's talking about something that feels like that.

- Oh, cool.

- Catch what I'm saying?

- Yeah.

- [Man] Okay. Now, a little bit further to your left is another graph. I'm gonna have to hold it in place a little bit. That's what a minimum feels like. You catch what I'm saying?

- Oh, this is so cool. I don't know, it's just seeing the maximum in the third dimension just brings the math so much better.

- Cool.

- [Voiceover] When she says this, "It just brings the math so much better," I still get chills every time I see it, and I've seen it quite a few times. This is the kind of experience that we're talking about, that we're opening up the doors to help people really grasp something that they weren't able to grasp before. And the follow-up from this video was, we got a chance to meet Chelsea and we got a chance to spend a lot of time with Chelsea. But I talked to the Disabilities Service Coordinator afterwards, and she told me two really amazing things that came out of this experience with having the 3D models. First of all, the TA, she said, became an even better teacher, that this is someone who now understood in a different way how to convey information to different groups of people. That in itself is pretty cool. But what I think is the coolest thing out of the entire exercise was, all the other students in her class, once they got a chance to feel the models, all said, "Now I get it, too." So we've opened up the doors, we've opened up opportunities for people to experience something in a way that they probably weren't going to be able to experience. And for those of you who understand high-order math, you know, they're dealing with saddle points and cones in space, math far beyond my level of comprehension. But they were able to get it and grasp it and apply it to the situations they needed for their education. One of the greatest things about Chelsea, too, is, she just came in and visited with us. She's gonna be interning at NASA. So having these opportunities to increase her education has helped her get to where she is. And it just shows that really her future is limitless. Just because, again, we have the 3D printing technology doesn't mean that the same 3D printed objects will work for all people. For the next few slides what I wanna do is, I wanna go through and talk about different groups of learners. But please understand that these are not absolutes. Knowing that there are some people who are visual learners, some people who are tactile learners, some people who experience things auditorially, are all different. We use this as a guide to give us an example of something. For example, before we get into the learners who are blind or have low vision, we had an opportunity about a year ago to have a forum around 3D printing where we brought in teachers, we brought in students, we brought in technology companies, museums and libraries, all to think about how 3D printing could enhance educational opportunity. One example that came out of that was, out on the Internet, we found a plant cell, and so we printed it. Actually, Chelsea was there for that. So we gave it to Chelsea to look at, and she said she didn't understand it. Now, to me, I understood it because I could see where the different pieces fit in, I could see how they all kind of came together. But because she didn't have that same visual experience, it was very complicated for her to understand. So what we were able to do was, through sculpting through Play-Doh and other ways, we recreated that exact same cell to something that made more sense to her, where we increased some areas to be a little bit more prominent and decreased some areas, reprinted it, and had it. Both of them were a plant cell. Both of them were valid and a valid representation. But two different people experienced it in two different ways. I think that's really important to understand, because when you're printing something, you wanna make sure that it actually conveys the information you're hoping to get across. And, again, with the flexibility of 3D printing and the design software, if it doesn't, you can actually go back and recreate it, as we did. But really understanding how the person you're trying to increase opportunities for learns is really important part of the 3D printing experience. When we talk about learners who are blind or have low vision, 3D printed models can help when the actual object's not available. That goes back to what we talked about before, if it's too big, too small, too fragile or too dangerous. That's probably a good time to bring in an object to help them explore. Also when there's processes or stages involved. If you think about teaching human development to someone who might have a visual impairment, having them understand the entire nine months of pregnancy may be a little bit more challenging without having something for them to experience. So being able to show the size of the fetus at conception, and then show the size of the baby later, that's a process. So that would show the different stages and progressions that we go through in those nine months. And then things that are movable. I've seen a lot of really good examples of the model of an eye, or electricity through circuits. But imagine, if you will, where joints or bones come together. Again, if you're studying the human body and you're talking about bones, if you just hand someone a 3D printed model of a knee joint, they probably will think, "This is just a bunch of plastic." But if you're able to have it constructed in a way where it moves and it shows where the knee bends, that gives a little bit more information to kinda show what you're trying to convey in that. I know it's hard with you not all in the same room with me, but I'm imagining you're all shaking your heads, going, "Yeah, okay, now I get it." But if you don't, just think about how you would experience something that you had no visual representation of or had no working memory of. It might be a little bit more challenging. So we wanna make sure that when we're thinking about learners who are blind or low vision, that the objects that are being created are objects that are actually meaningful and not just lumps of plastic. Well, let me talk about when it does not help before I move on to that. If this is the only form of information that a person has, this 3D printed tactile, it may not work. But if you're able to give some context to it, it may work a little bit better. So when it's a standalone source of information, and that they're expected to get everything out of it from there alone, that 3D printed tactile may or may not work. Also, if a 3D object attempts to duplicate a 2D image, so if you're trying to do a raised outline of a map, you can do that on a 3D printer, but it's still a 2D image. It's not really a 3D image. It's just the modality of how you get that 2D image to them could be done on that printer. And then, if you only are showing one side of the face, so if you're only showing part of the product. So when I talked about that plant cell before, or the animal cell or whatever cell, being able to show it in 360 degrees might be more meaningful than just showing a piece of it because it doesn't give context of what's on the other side. Then we have people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 3D printing could help if a learner has a reading deficit or difficulty understanding a caption, that they might need an actual object. Also, if they have difficulty understanding sign language or an interpreter's explanation of that, that might be another good candidate to actually have the object in their hand, where they're able to touch and explore and to experiment with what is being handed to them. And also if someone's first language is not English, so American Sign Language may or may not work, how do we convey that information to that person in a way that is meaningful might be through a tactile. It does not help when that same object that other students have is already available, it's just another object. Because of the limitations of the material that's used, it may not even be the most accurate object. So, going back to that cat idea. If you could bring in a real cat, that might be more meaningful than 3D printing a plastic cat that might not be true to size or may not have the same textures that a cat would have if you brought in a real one. For learners with learning disabilities, 3D printing can help, especially if there's some visual functioning difficulties, by having that hands-on experience, by having something to manipulate and to feel might help that person understand something a little bit better. Also, for students with auditory processing difficulties, to be able to look at something up close, to ask questions, to have that opportunity to manipulate it, might be more meaningful than just blazing over it real quickly in a conversation. But when it doesn't work is, again, if the object is not available for close-up manipulation, but we're viewing it from a distance, it may not be something that can help that student. Again, being able to hold it and spend time with it might be better and more beneficial for that particular type of learner. And then, students with physical disabilities, something like the DNA stand, again, I mentioned the microscope before, if someone has a physical disability that prohibits them or prevents them from being able to see information through a microscope, they're not gonna be able to access that information. So maybe that is an opportunity to print that helix or to print something that you're looking at very small. Or other technologies that might be difficult for them to manipulate. Each learner has a different skill, we've talked about that. We know that learners learn differently. This is another tool. This is another tool for the toolbox so that, when we're teaching students, they really understand in a different way, or they have the opportunity to understand in a different way. Being able to ask questions is really important, also, for gaining information. I wanna dig a little bit deeper on when it's appropriate. Going back to, now, after we've said there are different groups of learners who may experience things differently, there are some things we can consider pretty standard when it comes to whether it's appropriate. Something like a human heart has multiple and complex layers. Being able to have a 3D printed object that captures those layers could potentially helps someone understand how the heart structure is set up or how it functions. Also something that needs to be explored in 360 degrees, I mentioned that already before. But being able to see it from all sides might be an appropriate medium to have a 3D printed tactile. When you need to compare a group of objects. Again, going back to the Leaning Tower of Pisa versus the Eiffel Tower, by being able to print models and to help learners understand that these are not to scale but this is gonna give us a good understanding of how one is designed differently or taller or shorter. Seeing them next to each other can help give some more information that might not be able to be conveyed just through text and audio alone. Also when there's a relationship between parts. Going back to that knee example, going back to seeing how the knee joint works and how it bends is more valuable than just showing a static version of that particular knee. We see that a lot in anatomical structures. A lot of people use tactiles for chemistry, for chemical purposes, chemistry purposes. To be able to show how the pieces fit together, 3D printing may be a solution to help people understand that a little bit more. Then, also when exploring the movement of parts or gears, showing how gears work, you might be able to 3D print something that could help someone understand that a little bit better, as well. I've given you a lot of information about when to print, when not to print, for whom to print, but I do wanna really stress that it can be used in education in so many different ways. We talked about body parts, we talked about biology. Health education is another example of how we can use 3D printed tactiles to help people experience and understand things a little bit better. Also in chemistry, what we talked about. But there's subjects that may not seem as obvious, like an auto class, where people can print replacement parts. They can create parts that help them make something better or changes the design of something that they wanna prototype for the future. I mentioned before that you can print in sugar and you can also print in cocoa. There are a number of people from a cooking school that said in the past, when they had to hand make a lot of their sugary toppings for the decorations, it took them hours. But now that they're able to 3D print, it takes them a matter of minutes to do the same work. Geography changes and being able to explore maps, if you need to change a map, you can easily do that on a 3D printer, as opposed to having to go out and buy all new maps. And then in architecture, again, with prototyping. So there's a lot of ways that you can use it in learning in many different areas of education and learning. I mentioned that I would show you some repositories. These are some repositories, some may be free, some are not so free. Thingiverse is the one that we use the most, and that's the one second from the bottom. The problem is that there's not necessarily accessibility features built in to some of these repositories. Some of the models that you'll find will be easier to print than others. But generally, you can go out, plug in what you wanna find, and be able to pull from that. Then, the other thing I wanted to make sure that you knew about today is, as I mentioned, last year we brought a group of people together to talk about 3D printing. One of the things that we created was a Quick Start Guide to 3D printing. In this Quick Start Guide, we really target teachers, museums, libraries and administrators, because we know that people often say, "We would love to start something. "We would love to have a 3D printer. "Now what, what do we do with it?" So the 3D printing Quick Start Guide goes through similar steps what we talked about today, so what is 3D printing, and then why you should consider 3D printing, how to use the Quick Start Guide, and then, for those people who are interested in setting up their own space, how to create a makerspace. For those of you who are not familiar with that term and are wondering why we brought in museums and libraries, we're seeing a lot of communities starting to sprout up these makerspaces, where people can go in and create things, whether they found it online or they designed it themselves, and be able to print them out. Libraries are great for that because a lot of them have these makerspaces already in place. What we are hoping to continue work on in the future is, continually working with those libraries so that, if a teacher or parents says, "It really would be helpful to this child "to have x, or to have this model," that they could go to their local library and be able to have it printed out so that their child can actually experience that. And then considerations around 3D printing and resources. We're not in the business necessarily of recommending one printer over another. There's some companies that do a really great job of that. But there's some things to consider, making sure you have enough ventilation, making sure that you keep your printer covered and free from dust. There's a lot of things in that Quick Start Guide that, if you're curious about finding out more information, I'm gonna direct you to there. And you can find that on the Diagram website. You can find the Quick Start Guide and then download it for free and read through it. It's about 20 pages, so it's a pretty easy read. And it talks through in depth a lot of the things we talked about today. So what is the future of technology in education? A lot of that work is currently being done now in the Diagram Research Center. For those of you who are interested in learning about that, I highly encourage you to go to the Center, check out the website, see all the different projects we're working on. You can also follow us on Twitter. But if you have questions specific to 3D and want some more information, feel free to email us at 3d@benetech.org. We're always very interested in learning about what are some of the things that people are interested in. We constantly update that Quick Start Guide so the information doesn't become outdated. So feel free to contact us there. I wanted to share just one final story with you all. Someone who attended our forum last year, who had 3D printing experience in a classroom but never with disability. There's a woman in Wisconsin who had a makerspace at her school. She came to give us her thoughts of how we could increase education. At the time, she was not thinking about accessibility. At the time, she was thinking about creating, doing projects where her students were able to come up with ideas to make a better race car, or to improve on something else. When she sat and she talked to a number of us at this forum, she realized that they really weren't set up to include kids with special needs in their makerspace. So when she left us and went back, they instituted some programs. And I'm happy to say that now, we've gone from just creating objects to now being able to figure out how to solve problems within their own community and their own school. One problem they had was, there was a student there who had trouble using spoons, and they wanted the students, and this is kindergarten through third, wanted to figure out how do we help this student create a spoon, or have a spoon that would work for his ability level? So they went back and forth, they worked with the student, the kids in the makerspace revamped some of their designs, went back, prototyped it, didn't work, fixed it, tried it again. They finally came up with a workable spoon that worked for this student. What an amazing opportunity for inclusive opportunities with kids of all ability levels. This was not just a group of students doing something and excluding other people. This was actually working together to increase inclusive opportunities in their school, in their classroom, so that all people in their school community could participate in this makerspace through the use of 3D printing. I'll leave you with that. I know that there's probably a bunch of questions. We have a bunch of time. I'd love to open up the phone if possible to questions, or if people wanna type them into the chat box, that would be great, and I'm happy to answer that, as well. I'm going briefly through the questions. I'm trying to see if there's a good one to start. I don't know if Andy, you or John had seen any that came through when I was talking.

- [Voiceover] Well, Lisa, no. Didn't see any questions come through. But one kinda common question we get a lot here at our Pacer Center, 'cause we've just started dabbling in the 3D printing, is, some educators come through and they kinda get excited about some of the potentials. A lot of the times, they're kinda curious about what's maybe a productive way to start that conversation about 3D printing in their school or in their district. Through your work in education, have you found that there's really productive ways to make 3D printing happen for schools?

- [Voiceover] Well, you know, a lot of it depends on what the purpose of the 3D printing is. We were seeing a lot of traction around the makerspaces, where they're giving kids an opportunity to be able to learn the technology, use the technology, and create things. What we're not seeing as much of is, how do we incorporate kids with all ability levels into these makerspaces? Oftentimes, the design software and the printers may not be the most accessible pieces of technology to use, because they're very hot, kids could get burned. When people come to us and ask us about that kind of information, in that Quick Start Guide, we have some considerations you need about that. But what we think about, and one way to increase what is actually being created in a more meaningful way is to think about the need in the community and similar to that boy who had trouble using a spoon and needed a solution. Not just having kids create stuff that might be, like I said, my Yoda heads, which I love, but to be able to solve real problems. I think that we've seen a lot more traction in schools when they're interested in having somebody at the school help and work with their special populations to get them the materials that they need. For example, I talked to a number of schools across the country who say, "Having these tactiles would be wonderful. "How do we get them? "We don't know how to print." In many cases, other parts of their campus, there are already 3D printers. It's just knowing where they are and connecting that way. At a lot of university campuses, they have them maybe in the engineering department. But could you work together to collaborate and use it in the education department? Or sometimes in, like, computer design classes, they may have the software. Being able to pair with the people who are already learning how to use this software and printing the materials that are needed to be used anywhere around the school. I'm not sure if that exactly answers your question, or if it just gave you a little bit more information. But for those people who are considering getting 3D printers, I would definitely reference the Quick Start Guide and looking to see some of the things to consider before you go and buy one.

- [Voiceover] Yeah, those are some great pointers there, Lisa. We had a great question come in here from Ken. He says, very, very open-ended question here. We could fill a whole hour with this. "What ideas do you have for printed assistive technology?"

- [Voiceover] That's a great, great, question. We're currently in the process of putting together a repository of accessible images. It's a very broad category, as you can imagine, mainly because there's so many things that could be printed. One of the things that we did as part of the forum last year was, I went through a biology book, a high school biology book, and identified about 100 objects or images that could be candidates for 3D printed tactiles. The group that was with us created some. And over the year, we had finished off that list. So we're using that as kind of a basis to start an accessible repository that would have braille and be able to have the things people need. But there's not one place to get started, I guess. I guess thinking about where the need is, what information is more challenging to convey, and then figuring out what could you potentially use, what objects could potentially use to create that. There is a website called Library Lyna, and it's Lyna with a y. A young man whose father is visually impaired and a chemist, the two of them worked together to create this website. And all the chemical compounds for chemistry are on that website, ready to be printed. And they're in files that print fairly well on most printers. For someone who's studying chemistry, having access to the actual compounds. And all of them have braille on them, as well, so that if you have students with visual impairment, they're able to say, "Okay, this is carbon, "this is oxygen, this is this." I see a big use and need for it in biology, as I said, but also math. When you think about teaching geometric shapes, some of the basic shapes we may have access to. But I have an example of a fraction kit that was created just from an open source repository online. One of the greatest things about this fraction kit is, when I looked online to see a comparative of how much it would cost to buy one, it was about $127. I printed it off for under five. I printed it with braille. Again, I've already opened up accessibility to people who may need braille to understand what they're actually experiencing. But if you think about a person who might have issues with picking up small pieces, you could actually use that exact same file and increase it to, you know, 10 times what it was before so that someone could then manipulate something that's a little larger. And it's the exact same file. So I really think the ability to customize, you can change colors. So again, if you have someone who had preferences or needed different colors for contrast, you can change colors in a way that you might not be able to do with commercially available. One of the things that I really stress is, a benefit of having 3D printed tactiles is, I teach now, but not in the same capacity. But as a former special education teacher, we would experiment a lot because we weren't really sure what was gonna work. And it's costly to purchase a lot of materials that you're not entirely sure is gonna work. But if you could 3D printing something and see if it works, or see how it works, I think that'll give you some guidance on how to really meet the needs of the person that you're trying to educate or trying to teach. As you said in your question, it's sort of open ended and we could probably talk about it for hours. But really anything, if there's a need in a particular area, you could potentially use a 3D printing tactile to solve that need.

- [Voiceover] Great. I'm seeing a lot of activity on the chat, some really great contributions here. So keep those coming. Another really interesting question here we got was from Melinda. She asks, "Any ideas for 3D printing "as supports for visual schedules?" Yeah, that's something we see a lot, especially for early childhood, as literal objects schedules, placing them maybe from left to right to symbolize the different activities going through the day. So that's one thing that comes to my mind, kind of right off the bat. But I'll turn it over to you.

- [Voiceover] Well, that's exactly what I was gonna say, as well. I wanna distinguish something just linguistically for a minute. When we talk about 3D printing, it's referred to in multiple ways. It could mean 3D printed objects. They're the 360 objects or standalone objects that we talked about. But some people are now using 3D printers to create 2D tactiles. So, similar to how you would use an embosser or the Piaf, or other ways that you're using technology in the schools, you could also use a 3D printer for that. In some cases, it makes it a little bit more sturdy, because the plastic's a little thicker than the paper might have been. You could do one of two things with a visual schedule. You could print 2D line drawings that maybe a student takes with them to the next section or feels on their desk and then moves on. That's one way to do it. Or, as you were saying, Andy, or John, sorry, you can actually have 3D printed objects, too, that you can line up and put in order so that they know, "Okay, now it's time to wash my hands. "Now it's time to eat, now it's time to go outside," all the things that you might put on the visual schedule. Yeah, I really think it's limitless. A lot of it depends on the creativity and the imagination of the person who is trying to solve a need. But I think that that would probably be a really good use for a 3D printer.

- [Voiceover] Great. Another great question here, we're just kinda going down the line, was from Tara. She asks, "In your resources, do you have any examples "of 3D printing ideas for students with disabilities, "especially in math and science?" And I know you've already touched on some great examples there already.

- [Voiceover] Yes, you know, we're still trying to build this up. We're talking to our partners to see if people are willing to share things that have worked with them. That's what we're hoping that this repository will be, will be a place for people to go and look there. There are a lot of, if you go back to that, I'm gonna head back to that slide real quick that had all the repositories on it. My most favorite thing that I have found so far, and I don't know what level of children or students you're working with, but on Thingiverse, which is, I'm gonna draw, I'm gonna use my technology. Well, maybe not. But on Thingiverse, we found the Pythagorean theorem that explains that concept in a way that made so much more sense to me. That's the idea of a squared plus b squared equals c squared. Somebody actually designed something that was movable. So it showed the math that would occupy a squared and the math that would occupy b squared. It rotated on an axis so that you could bring both of theosepieces into c squared to really understand how that equation actually works. For those people who are teaching students in middle school, high school, so when you're talk about algebra, I found some great things on Thingiverse alone right there. For those students who are a lot younger, though, I think there's some common area objects like bones and fossils and things like that that might be a great way to increase access to math and science, as well.

- [Voiceover] Great examples there. Just in case, I know Lisa touched on earlier, but for those that are kinda like us here at Pacer Center, that are just starting to dabble in 3D printing, the resources that Lisa has listed here are really valuable because what these repositories mean is, even if you don't have any experience, say, with design, you can download a predesigned item and load that into a software and then print it. So these resources right here are a really great way to get your feet wet in 3D printing. Rolling right along here, we have another great question here from Alice. She writes, "Where is a good resource to find more about "what printers people are using and what is out there?"

- [Voiceover] You know what, that's a really good question. We've been really lucky. I'll name the two companies that we've worked with. We've worked with Octave, O-C-T-A-V-E. They're out of the Bay Area where I'm located, who are really great to actually assess what your needs are. You know, with both these companies, both Octave, and then the other company is MatterHackers, M-A-T-T-E-R-H-A-C-K-E-R-S, both of those companies have staff that are really wonderful. They are distributors of many different printers. So they're not gonna say one brand specifically. They're gonna listen to you. When you tell them what your need is, so, you don't want a printer that would far exceed the technology that you or someone else who would be operating it would wanna be using, so having a conversation with some of these distributors and actually saying to them, "I need this for this purpose," or "I need something that is in this price range," or "I need something that my students can use," will really help them understand your needs to be able to make a good recommendation on which printer to use. I see a good question on here, too, so I'm gonna jump in. I hope I'm not screwing up a little bit on your side. John had written, "Is it possible to share 3D objects "for visually impaired using Free Matter for the Blind "so that we don't always print our real objects?" Possible, and I would love to talk to you further about that if you wanna give me a call. I know, I think you and I have spoken before. We could definitely discuss that and see if there's a way to do that so that people can share.

- [Voiceover] Lisa, just to kind of pick your brain, looking into the future, maybe, say, 10 years down the road, are there any trends that you see currently happening or things that you see in the education, 3D printing, really exploding in?

- [Voiceover] Well, you know, for the design and for the actual making of things, 3D printing is not the end-all. We're seeing a lot more now with laser printers, with, like, wood cutting things. So I think for the making part, that's limitless, it's hard to predict. Virtual reality might be something that we're seeing in classrooms a little bit more. Sonification, being able to hear something as you touch a computer screen, is something we're seeing that I think is gonna explode more into the future, also haptic feedback. For those of you who have a cell phone, primarily Android phones over the Apple phones, some of that technology is already built into some of these platforms. I think that the one thing that is certain is, we will continue to see more educational resources, like textbooks and other reading books, in digital formats, and be able to have multi-modal opportunities to use these books are something that we're really working with the publishers to do. It's my dream, and maybe it's just a little bit of a dream, but maybe we can make it a reality. It's my dream that in the future, when kids or teachers have a textbook or a book and they need more information about it, they have a variety of ways that they can get that information. So if they need a file to print it out in 3D, that file will already be embedded in there so that you don't have to print everything, but you can print the things you want. That's where we kinda see the future going, that these multi-modal textbooks and multi-modal books will be available in the future. And we're working on our side to make that happen.

- [Voiceover] Hey there, Lisa, this is Andy. I'm wondering if you could maybe point out a couple of common mistakes that people make when they first invest in a 3D printer, they get it set up at their school, and boom, they're ready to go, they got the resources they have with their ideas, and then things, for whatever reason, things don't work. Could you tell us about some common mistakes that are easy to avoid, or maybe aren't obvious?

- [Voiceover] Well, I think that printer maintenance is really a big thing, because what happens is, oftentimes you see people who, I mean, my current printer, I was trying to demo it the other day, clogged right before I was about to demo it. I have not been using it very frequently, and that's another issue. So you wanna make sure you're getting a machine and really taking care of that machine. Every time you move the machine, you have to recalibrate it because if the platform is not where it needs to be, your print could fail, and it could fail just because it's slightly off. I would recommend that if someone's thinking about getting a 3D printer, they have a dedicated space for it where they don't have to move it around, they have people who will make sure that it is being used on a regular basis, and also that it's being covered and protected from dust, because it's amazing how little particles of dust can really get into that machine. I think that that actually leads me to another point that makes a lot of sense, too. When you're thinking about buying a printer, think about the company you're buying it from and ask what kind of customer support they have. I know that the company that we purchased our two machines from have been really great with helping us with the maintenance in it so that, when we do have a big problem where something clogs or something gets bumped and is out of order, they will actually realign it for us. You know, for a fee, but at least I know I have someone I can call. I think what happens is, people buy the machines, they may or many not have the customer service follow-up, and therefore they don't work any more and they get put into a closet.

- [Voiceover] All right, well, thank you so much, Doctor Lisa Wadors. Final comments, please, in the chat. Let's thank our presenter. I am going to, here we are, everybody, if you could please, after you are finished, please go to the survey link. It's a very short survey, it'll take only a couple minutes of your time, at which point you will be directed to a certificate of attendance and participation. This recording will be available at the CTD website in the part of the website called the Cafe. It'll be posted some time tomorrow. There will be links to handouts at that same place, and also, I think, someone asked about links to the movies. Those will also be made available on the ctdinstitute.org website. I'd like to thank again Doctor Lisa Wadors for an excellent presentation and thank all of you for attending.

- [Voiceover] Thank you, everyone.