Creating Change Through 3D Printing

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“The last thing the world needs is more plastic trinkets,” says Brookwood 3D Design Problem Bank founder and Innovation Coordinator Rich Lehrer.

Consequently, if his students think they’ll be 3D printing their names or plastic mascots, they’re in for a–possibly world-changing–surprise.
Rich and his 8th-grade STEM students at Brookwood School, in the Boston, Massachusetts were one of the first student groups to 3D print a prosthetic hand device, in 2013.

Rich’s then-three-year-old son, Max, was the recipient–and the students were able to see the results of their engineering work immediately.

The success of this project was just the beginning. Rich, who has served as an education coordinator for nonprofit e-Nable, in addition to his current work as a teacher trainer through the Buck Institute, was inspired to incorporate real-world problem-solving into his students’ future lessons.

Following closely thereafter was the beginning of the 3D Design Problem Bank. In the Problem Bank, community members submit problems which they believe 3D printing could solve. Then, the students choose a problem and get to work, designing.

And in an exciting STEM offshoot, the Problem Bank also sparked “Dezign Girlz” in 2016. This was a girls-only, week-long STEM workshop that paired sixth-grade girls with residents of a local senior community. Once they’d identified problems the senior citizens encountered in daily life, the students went to work designing adaptive 3D printed devices as solutions.

Rich talked about his background as an educator, some of the STEM projects his students have done, how he came to implement the 3D Design Problem Bank, and shared his vision for a global “3D Design Problem Bank”, along with some resources.

On this edition of Over Coffee® you’ll hear:
  • How Rich first began teaching STEM projects as his eighth-grade science curriculum;
  • His experiences leading his students as they built a prosthetic hand device, in 2013;
  • How that experience started him using 3D printing in a problem-solving context, for his students’ learning experiences;
  • How Brookwood came to implement the 3D Design Problem Bank, and how it works;
  • Rich’s vision for expanding the Problem Bank to be a global educational tool;
  • The ways in which similar Problem Banks might be customized to deal with certain types of design challenges;
  • How Rich and a colleague connected sixth-grade girls with senior citizens in the local community, through the “Dezign Girlz” pilot project;
  • The resources Rich recommends for fellow STEM innovators (he has a free curriculum available on his website!)


Brookwood’s 3D Design Problem Bank Project

Ultimaker Education Pioneers

Rich’s website

MIT’s D-Lab

e-NABLE Community- open-source community for 3D printed prosthetics

LimbForge™-nonprofit that provides tools and training for clinicians to provide pathients with 3D printed prosthetics

Buck Institute for Education

163 episodes available. A new episode about every 7 days averaging 19 mins duration .