3D printers in colleges and high schools today are in a not-dissimilar position to where personal computers were thirty years ago. That’s to say that they’re technologies every student should learn about, but which are often woefully underrepresented on campus due to their cost and other factors.
“For a high school or college you might have three or four 3D printers which you’re trying to use to get your students to learn about 3D printing. It’s impossible!” teacher and holder of bachelor degree in engineering Joseph Issa told Digital Trends.
Issa thinks he’s cracked the problem, however. In a new crowdfunding Indiegogo campaign, Issa is introducing ULIO 3D: a $299 (for early bird customers) 3D printer designed to teach students about CAD software design, robotics, engineering — and how to print their own 3D printers. “With ULIO, you can take those three or four 3D printers the college has, and use them to teach your students about drafting new 3D printers,” Issa continued. “You can slowly build up more and more 3D printers that you have at your disposal — while at the same time your students are learning about the technology.”
It’s not a totally self-replicating 3D printer (you do need an existing 3D printer), but the ability to print additional 3D printer parts certainly makes it significant.
ULIO comes as a high quality 3D printed kit, in which virtually every part is composed of 3D printed pieces. From this, students can print the 3D printer in any filament color they like — including glow-in-the-dark options.
“At the end of this amazing STEM project your students should be able to draft ULIO with CAD, assemble mechanical parts, properly connect electronics to a micro controller, flash the firmware, calibrate and start printing with a colorful 3D printer they made on their own,” the crowdfunding campaign notes.
It’s also student-proof, which should tick boxes with faculty members worried about that kind of thing. “If you break a piece of it, you have the original STL file so you can just print a replacement,” Issa said. “There’s no problem with that at all.”
Issa explains that ULIO combines his two passions of teaching and engineering. “I was developing this personal project of building my own 3D-printed 3D printer,” he said. “As I was doing that, it dawned on me that there was something more going on here. That’s when I decided to combine it with my work as a teacher. The idea is that students and teachers can draft ULIO, they can print ULIO, and then they can assemble it. It becomes a whole STEM education project in itself.”
Is it too late for us to sign up for college classes again?