Since ancient times, scientifically minded people have tried to figure out the mechanisms behind the physical world. Astronomers observed the movement of the sun and stars, biologists watched humans and animals interact with their environment, engineers noticed the angular similarities behind structurally sound buildings. They may have had simple tools to aid them—a basic measuring device, a compass, perhaps an early telescope.
Today, teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics mostly stick to the theoretical aspects. Students must know the number of degrees in a triangle, but rarely do they get to put that knowledge to use through structured lessons.
The tools listed here are transforming the way teachers approach STEM education. Integrating these new tools into their lessons can help teachers teachers reinforce theoretical concepts by demonstrating their real-world applications. By showing students that the knowledge is relevant and useful, teachers can help them unlock new realms of creativity in all scientific realms and possibly change their future career trajectories.
Whether they’re used to create food, organs or mechanical parts, 3-D printers allow engineers to make their designs tangible and physical. And that’s just what they can do for students, too; as 3-D printers have become less expensive and more ubiquitous, schools have begun integrating them into their science and engineering curriculums. Students have used 3-D printers for projects ranging from dioramas of real or imagined constructions to engineering the fastest model car to reconstructing of eyeballs to better understand how they work.