How Robotics & 3D Printing are Renewing SA Education

(Left & Center Photo by Vanessa Loring – Pexel. Right Photo by Micro:Bit – Micro:Bit)

Teach little Makers to dream big, and they will change the world. Robotics and 3D printing have shaken South African industries in so many ways, redefining modern manufacturing and the future workspace. As Makers, many of us are responsible for the widespread passion in these wonderful hobbies. We are also very aware of educators and their heroic task to prepare students for a technological world that’s constantly reinventing itself.

The education industry experienced a similar shift with the appearance of computers, but 3D printing and robotics have sprung up in an even shorter period. The curriculum is scrambling to adapt as we speak. Whole new subjects on coding are being taught, and school 3D printers whir in the corners of classrooms. Tertiary students are developing new robotics creations for complex functions and entering the workplace with new ideas. How has all this transformed SA education today? Let’s dive a bit deeper into the subject.

What Skills Does Robotics & 3D Printing Develop in Education?

The integration of robotics and 3D printing into education goes far beyond building fun toy robot kits and making cool 3D models. These two subjects are primed for fostering a holistic approach to learning. With project-based learning of 3D printing and robotics, educators nurture critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, and problem solving. New technologies and tools within both these avenues come together spectacularly. Students can create from scratch almost anything they can imagine, by coding it and 3D printing parts or casings to protect their electronics hardware.

Robotics learning for South African students presents a unique opportunity for immersing into a world of discovery and exploration. Building and programming robots develop essential skills for success in fields like science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. These 5 cornerstones of robotics education are nicknamed STEAM or STEM (without focus on Art). As parents and kids collaborate in hands-on robotics projects, we start to impact our entire country through imparting valuable life skills to the next generation

(Photo by Vanessa Loring – Pexel)

3D printing in the South African classroom might be a strange idea to some, but this relatively new technology deserves a spot as a crucial skill to develop. Just as computers are becoming available in more schools nationwide, 3D printers are not far behind. Manufacturers have adapted to use 3D printers in the office and will value employees with knowledge of these machines. Likewise, students can think creatively to produce unique 3D objects that would be hard or impossible to make any other way. Science, art, and technology lessons are naturally enhanced with a 3D printer to challenge students and develop critical thinking skills across any school subject. 3D printers have become commonplace in university laboratories for this reason.

(Photo by Vanessa Loring – Pexel)

Examples of Maker Projects in SA Education

The biggest benefit of introducing robotics and 3D printing into education is the potential for active participation within any subject. The applications of these learning tools are restricted only by the imaginations of students and teachers. At DIYE, we’ve noticed that lecturers or teachers use our robotic kits and classroom 3D printers as teaching aids. To see how our products contribute to the education of South Africans warms our hearts. Here are just a few fantastic examples.

Micro:Bit Educational Resources

We have provided thousands of Micro:Bit educational boards to schools and universities across South Africa. This foundational brand caters to learners of all things electronics with online STEM courses and teacher resources available straight from the Micro:Bit official website. Their beginner-friendly programming is the perfect introduction of robotics into SA education. Kids build their own Micro:Bit Robot Kits, with proximity sensors, LEDs, and mobile wheels in workshops and group projects! The awesome little robots can even be used to teach more complicated fundamentals within a university setting.

(Photo by Micro:Bit – Micro:Bit)

Varsity College – SmartHydro AI Hydroponic Tents

As part of final assessments, university students develop their own outstanding projects from scratch. Putting their IoT and AI knowledge into practice, these Varsity College students created the SmartHydro – an AI hydroponics grow tent. The Arduino Mega board powers the system with a Radom Forest Classifier (RFC) AI model and IoT control. The AI takes sensor readings like light, humidity, and temperature, every 5 minutes. If any condition is out of place, the AI turns on the fans, water pump or nutrient delivery system, growing sensitive plants all on its own! Rural farmers across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal now ustilise the SmartHyrdo on their farms.

(Photo provided by Varsity College)

UKZN – 3D Filament Recycling Station Project

We have a lot of plastic pollution in the world, but these UKZN students stepped up to do something about it. Asim Shahid Bhatti and Vilasini Jairam built a 3D filament recycling station for their UKZN project in 2023. The station is able to strip plastic from 500mL water bottles and 2L soda bottles. The station uses heater blocks and an extruder to process these plastics with pultrusion. By the end, new filament is spooled and ready to print. The filament recycling station provides an affordable solution to plastic waste, demonstrating the sustainable application of 3D printing. You can even build your own recycling station.

(Photo provided by UKZN)

Join the SA Education Revolution

Who says students and teachers should have all the fun? We firmly believe anyone can learn robotics and 3D printing. You can benefit just as much from this crucial skill building with robotics kits and home 3D printers.

The impact of robotics and 3D printing extends far beyond the classroom, with students taking on real-world challenges and creating solutions that benefit society as a whole. With the rapid integration of robotics and 3D printing into the curriculum, students are not only learning to code and design, but also developing critical thinking, creativity, and teamwork skills. It’s our educators who truly shine in guiding students through this transformative journey. The DIY team would like to give each one of you resounding applause.

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