Imagine designing the most ingenious piece of 3-D printed goodness, and then having it printed–IN SPACE! If you’re an American child in one of the grades from K through 12, you might be able to make that happen. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation are creating a series of 3-D design challenges, as well as some lessons, for American students.
Called Future Engineers, the challenges are all a part of the government’s STEM freak-out that’s been going on in this country (and others) for the past, oh, sixty years. President Obama announced Future Engineers along with a whole bunch of other “maker” initiatives last June. Students who take part in the Future Engineers challenges will have their winning designs printed on the International Space Station with a 3-D printer, making history as one of the first parts manufactured in space. The challenge starts sometime soon (just can’t seem to find a solid date).
For me, it’s the making part that’s important. If children get a chance to not only design, but then make their design, most will learn how things work, and this is a good thing. If the program is run properly, without too much top-down interference, the students will learn not only design and 3-D printing skills, but the meaning of what they’ve designed and perhaps how to make it better next time around. They might even find they can apply those skills, confidence and questioning, to many different scenarios and not just 3-D printing, which are skills at the core to making.
There’s not much on the Future Engineers page, aside from a very brief description and signup link. But Make has a pretty decent write up if you’re interested in a few more details.