Exploring 3D Printing as a Tool for Pedagogy

3D printing has been making inroads especially in engineering and K12 education for a number of years, but it has become even more compelling as the price has come down. The 3DU printing facilities  in the Technology Commons at Western Carolina University opened the field to the entire campus in Fall of 2015. Much of the printing done in the space has been for personal projects and design classes.

Dr. Lily Ballofet, a new faculty member in the Department of History, saw a demonstration of the 3DU at the New Faculty Orientation in August of 2015. She later approached her department about paying for the printing of virtual topographic feature maps which gave her students a unique spatial and kinesthetic encounter with a tangible representation of the terrain. That same semester she was approached about Honors College contracts and was searching for a way to give these students a meaningful and memorable experience in completing their contracts.

With consultation and assistance from Dr. Jonathan Wade in the Coulter Faculty Commons, Dr. Ballofet decided to pursue a collaboration with the CFC, the Technology Commons, and the students to empower them to design and create an exhibit that would feature curated text, print, and 3D printed objects as a part of an exhibit in the McKee building.  Ryan Cameron and the student staff in the 3DU helped the Honors Students find 3D appropriate and workable 3D digital files, and aided them in the process of printing those files.  The Coulter Faculty Commons provided a small innovation grant to aid in the effort.

By giving the honors students the ability to choose their topics, the 3D files, the print color, and to integrate them into an exhibit presented to their peers and to the campus community, this project gave the students autonomy that allowed them to synthesize the work of others and remix it as their own creation.  The honors students to experience an honors contract completion that added to their personal learning and enhanced the learning experience of their classmates.

Come and see the exhibit in the McKee building and celebrate Meso-American history and culture with Dr. Ballofet and her students.