Teaching Earth Science with 3D printing

Ryan Cain – who teaches Earth Science to second graders – wanted to finish the most recent semester with a special, interactive project.

To help his class emphasize with hurricane victims, Cain decided to teach his students how to design their own buildings using 3D modeling software and MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers. The structures were then placed along the banks of a simple model river consisting of a water pump and a sandbox.

“By turning up the power on the water pump, Cain unleashed a flood on his class’s model city,” MakerBot’s Ben Millstein explain in a recent blog post. “This gives students a memorable visual on the effects of soil erosion.”

Erosion is the process by which soil and rock are removed from the Earth’s surface by exogenic processes such as wind or water flow – and then transported and deposited in other locations.

According to Wikipedia, excessive erosion causes problems such as desertification, decreases in agricultural productivity due to land degradation, sedimentation of waterways and ecological collapse due to loss of the nutrient rich upper soil layers. Industrial agriculture, deforestation, roads, anthropogenic climate change and urban sprawl are amongst the most significant human activities in regard to their effect on stimulating erosion.

Unsurprisingly, teaching second graders how to design and 3D print an entire riverbank of model buildings isn’t the only impressive thing Cain has done with his MakerBot 3D Printers, as he recently:

  • Embarked on a “30 days of creativity” project, starting with 3D printing a replacement knob on his dresser.
  • Printed new buildings for his erosion model.
  • Taught his robotics students how to design and 3D print concepts for relief delivery drones that could reach victims in the wake of natural disasters.

“Cain has been a fan of MakerBot since the Cupcake CNC,” Millstein noted.

“He was also one of the first educators to bring MakerBot 3D Printers into the classroom. We can’t wait to see what this pioneering educator will come up with next!”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has been using Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing has clearly entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere, architectural arena and science lab.

Indeed, the meteoric rise of 3D printing has paved the way for a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs, Makers and do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturers. So it comes as little surprise that the lucrative 3D printing industry is on track to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016.

1 thought on “Teaching Earth Science with 3D printing

  1. RIFT 3D

    Good example of out of the box thinking and the ability to catch them young. Kids are naturally interested and drawn toward technology. With 3D printing set to be the future of manufacturing, I hope that educationists and the administration get more students involved in such projects.



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