3D Printing in the Robotics Industry
3D printing has recently been incorporated into the Robotics industry as a tool to enable faster, more affordable prototyping and customization of robots. It gives engineers the ability to quickly create, prototype, test, and modify different robot designs. For example, if there is an issue with the design, engineers can quickly go back and modify it. 3D printing also provides more opportunities for customization. By being able to design and print virtually any part, engineers can easily customize robots for a wider variety of tasks, all for a fraction of the cost.
Industrial robotics companies have been busy incorporating 3D printing into robotics. For example, Kuka Robotics, a German manufacturer of industrial robots, is using MakerBot Z18 3D Printers to quickly design, produce, and modify prototypes, as well as manufacture the complex parts for their actual robots. They also use their MakerBots to customize robots based on specific customer requests.
The Power of Engaging Students in STEM
According to research presented at the 2015 ASEE Conference (American Society for Engineering Education), “introducing K-12 students to engineering design practices and its applications in the STEM field as early as possible can prepare them better for future education and careers.” To prove this statement, researchers presented a new curriculum that was focused on “designing and 3D printing components for the Linkbot modular robots” to students during two one-week summer camps held by the UC Davis C-STEM Center. They found that “students were engaged by having the possibility to successfully use a software tool commonly used in the mechanical engineering field. Being able to 3D print and use their designs boosted students’ confidence.” Overall, students learned “the basics of the mechanical engineering design process and how to combine these skills with their own creativity to solve real-world engineering problems.”
Read the full study here: A Robotics-Based 3D Modeling Curriculum for K-12 Education
Creating Experiential Learning for Students: Classroom Ideas, Tools, and Activities
According to the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition both robotics and 3D printing provide experiential (hands-on) learning experiences for students. Since incorporating 3D printing into Robotics has been so successful in industry, getting students familiar with using these technologies in conjunction with one another is an important skill they will need to pursue careers in these fields. Below are some examples of how you can begin incorporating 3D printing into robotics. They are also great ways to engage students in an interdisciplinary approach to STEM/STEAM learning. These ideas include lesson plans and suggestions on some of the robotics products that seamlessly integrate with 3D printing.
Robotis Mini Customization
Robotis, a company that specializes in producing robots and kits, created the Robotis Mini, a fully programmable, miniature humanoid robot. The Robotis Mini is also a 3D printable robot. This means you can customize and print out different parts of the Robot. From the head, to the arms, frame, and even the robot’s actuators – anything is possible. Robotis has made the STL (design) files for each part of the Robotis Mini available for download on their support page under the “STL file for 3D printer” title. You can download these files and customize them in a 3D design software such as Tinkercad or 3D Slash. These parts can be customized in any way you would like. A popular customization is the addition of accessories to the hands and feet of the robot. Being able to 3D print these parts also means you have instant access to replacement parts for a much lower cost. The Robotis Mini is suggested for grades 8-10.
Sphero H2 Make It Go
Sphero is a remote-controlled robot that can teach coding to students as young as Pre-K. In this lesson, students will use Tinkercad to design and print a “vehicle” that attaches to Sphero using the “hat” provided from Thingiverse. This lesson covers multiple STEAM subjects. Students explore the concepts of volume, programming, and the engineering design process. Appropriate for grades 4-8, this lesson is available in Thingiverse Education, or the MakerBot Educators Guidebook, and aligns to NGSS and Common Core standards for Engineering and Math.
This interdisciplinary project teaches both History and Physics. Students learn about the importance of chariot races in Ancient Rome – and Newton’s second law of motion (F=ma). Then, they pair up to design and print wheels that will attach to a model of a chariot. Finally, students program their Sphero robots using the Sphero app to race their chariots. This lesson covers concepts from multiple subject areas including Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, and History. Appropriate for grades 6-8, this lesson is available on Thingiverse Education and aligns to NGSS for Engineering and Physics.
Ozobot “Hardwear” Helmet Upgrade
Ozobot is a small, smart robot that can be programmed by drawing lines and color codes. More advanced students can use the OzoBlockly block-based coding editor to program Ozobot as well. In this lesson, students team up to create a game for their Ozobots. They must create their own unique mission board (playing field) and set of rules. Students are also tasked with designing and 3D printing a helmet (or other robot accessory) to help them during the game. Finally, they need to tactically program their Ozobots to play (and maybe win!?) the game. This lesson provides a fun and engaging way for middle school students to learn about Math, Engineering, and Programming concepts, and is available on Thingiverse Education.
Dash Launch Investigation
Dash is a robot from Wonder Workshop that helps students learn to code at any grade level. This lesson applies The LAUNCH Cycle A Design Thinking Framework For K-12 and has students use the Dash robot with the launcher accessory and the Wonder app to determine how mass affects distance. Students start the lesson by observing and evaluating the difference in distance when spheres at different infills are launched from Dash. Using their findings, students then design and print their own spheres to launch from Dash. This lesson is a great way to introduce elementary school students to both coding and engineering design and is available in Thingiverse Education.
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