As an active member of the #reprap community on IRC, I’ve started to realize that there are many others that share the common interest of getting 3D printing technology into schools, and so we’ve started a Google group to facilitate the sharing of ideas for this purpose. (Visit the Repraps for Education Google group.)
Our goal in particular is to start up a new project-based club at a local elementary school with the idea that it would research, source, build, tune, and then operate a 3D printer to use for school projects. We believe the earlier kids know what prototyping is and have prototyping tools at their disposal, the better—they are natural makers.
So we’ve started our own Prusa build at home with a $300 price target to see how things go. (You can see some details here: My $300 Prusa Mendel Build) We like the $300 price target because we think it’s reasonable to expect that each member in a club of six could raise $50 for a build. We have been working on building a club curriculum that would guide students and interested adult volunteers through the process of researching, sourcing, and building a machine. Obviously, once we’re up and running ourselves, we’ll have a better idea of how feasible it is, how the curriculum might be structured, and what concerns need to be addressed. So far I think the biggest concerns are safety and complexity.
If the project looks feasible, I’ll try to address some of the obvious safety concerns by designing an enclosure — hopefully one that the kids themselves can make.
If you have any thoughts or concerns on this idea, or if you have other ideas, please chime in!