Researching 3D Printing

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SWBAT utilize reliable internet sources to gain insights into how 3D printers function and the types of products they can be used to create.

Big Idea

In this lesson students will develop questions about 3D printing and then consult reliable sources to answer those questions.


10 minutes

Our classroom recently received grant funds to purchase a 3D printer.  Before the students begin creating their own 3D prints, it is important for them to understand how the printing process works.  I begin class by sharing a recently published article about 3D printers.  While the students have previously brainstormed the types of items they would like to make on the 3D printer, we have not discussed the realities of their brainstorming.  After highlighting some of the key portions of the article, I ask the students to think about the questions they have about 3D printing.  As they ask 3D questions, we write them on the board.  This continues until the students run out of questions.  Having the students ask questions meets NGSS SP1 which addresses the importance of students developing scientific questions.


5 minutes

Once the students have run out of questions to ask, we classify the 3D questions into groups and eliminate redundancy as necessary.  While each class section divided the questions a bit differently, the primary groups for questions included history/background of 3D printing, the process of 3D printing/how it works, items that can be 3D printed, and a miscellaneous category (I try to avoid creating this category as I want the students to really explore the relationships between the questions they have created).  Creating categories helps to pare down the questions a bit. To begin the process of creating categories, I ask the students to find similarities in the questions written on the board and to identify how one question is related to another. 

Because I want to encourage my students to learn how to ask and answer their own questions rather than relying on me as their sole source of information, I explain that they will need to pick at least three questions and perform research to find the answers to those questions.  We review how to identify reliable sources and the types of terms that may yield the best results. 

I also ask the students what they are required to do with any information they use that they did not generate themselves.  The students recall that they must cite their sources using both in text citations and create a reference list at the end of their document.  While I have copies of the APA Manual 6th Edition available for my students to use, I also allow them to use citation machine.  I am careful to caution the students that using citation machine does not ensure that their citations are correct and advise them to double check the APA Manual or ask me if they have difficulty creating a citation.


20 minutes

The students select three questions that they find the most interesting, and begin researching.  During this time I circulate throughout the room and ask the students questions about what they are researching.  I ask the students to explain the questions they have selected and how the information collected by researching that question will impact our collective understanding of 3D printing.  I also ask the students to tell me if their resource is reliable and to explain why they think it is a reliable resource.  I ask some of the students additional questions or prompt them to dig deeper or modify their search to find the answers to some of the questions that are not being researched by other students. 

The wireless network in our school has a very reliable filter, so I am comfortable with having students direct their own research.  Regardless of filter strength, it is important for me to circulate through the room to make sure that students are staying on task and finding the types of resources they need in order to be successful on the assignment.  More prescribed searches can be performed based on pre-selected websites and this assignment could be conducted as a webquest. This website contains a variety articles regarding 3D printing, but it does have minimal advertisements. Live Science also contains a section about 3D printing.

This lesson addresses CCSS RST.6-8.2 by having students perform research and then determine central ideas and provide accurate summaries of the information.  This lesson also addresses many of the CCSS for Science and Technical Subjects, specifically RST.6-8.1, RST.6-8.2, RST.6-8.3 RST.6-8.4, and RST.6-8.10 as the students are performing research, reading for information, and writing summaries.  Additionally, NGSS SP8 is addressed as students obtain, evaluate, and communicate the information they research about 3D printing.

This video clip provides an example of the types of questions I ask students while they are researching and the suggestions I provide for further research.

This is an example of student work for this assignment. For this assignment I do expect the students to write in paragraph form and to cite their sources both in text and at the end of their writing.  Many students wrote the question followed by their researched answer and included citations at the end of the page.

Wrap up

5 minutes

Near the end of class I ask the students to share their findings with the rest of the class.  I begin by taking volunteers and many of the students are very excited about the information they learned while performing their research.  This sharing of ideas provides students with the opportunity to not only share their ideas but also serves as a means through which to begin to fact check their information.  After a student shares out with the rest of the class, I ask if any students found the same information and ask those students to build upon what was already said.  I also ask for students to share any differing information.  The students are required to complete their research and turn their information in online.