Our school just got a 3-D printer with digitizer, so off I set on how to enter this world of 3-D printing with my students. When I first told them that we have a 3-D printer, I got some pretty perplexed looks, and then after the silence, questions such as, "You mean it prints 3-D pictures on paper?" I thought about how I would introduce it to the class and decided to bring them back in time to the 1300s and Black Death:
"Fear of the plague paralyzed the times. It left a shortage of labor, a need for technology to fill the void, and questions, lots of questions, about the meaning of life." (Joy Hakim, 2005). We moved ahead to when painters first started painting with perspective. We read an excerpt from Joy Hakim's The Story of Science together, analyzing and discussing it together.
"In Italy, the Polish student Nicolaus Copernicus learns of Columbus's voyage and of others that follow. He studies some of the new maps. He also studies an astonishing new drawing technique called perspective; it uses principles of geometry to show three dimensions on a two-dimensional piece of paper. Drawings no longer have to look flat; they can show depth. The can mirror the real world...Art is soon used as a tool of investigation - to plot, to plan and visualize..."
We then created a timeline and added several milestones of the early 1400s to it and I fast-forwarded to the late 20th century and into the 21st with the history or 3-D printing with this infographic.
I tried to recreate the wonder and awe that people must have felt when they first saw a drawing with perspective and connect that to the wonder that my students were sensing when they first heard about 3-D printing. They were amazed to learn about all the developments in the field from printing cars to organs. Just as perspective led to a new way of seeing, 3-D printing is leading to a new way of making.