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The RepRap 3-D Printer Revolution in STEM Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

ETAC, ABET, & STEM Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1242.1 - 24.1242.13



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Paper Authors


John L. Irwin Michigan Technological University

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John Irwin earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, and in 2006 joined the School of Technology at Michigan Technological University and is presently a tenured Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering Technology (with a strong manufacturing focus). Irwin was a Program Manager for a NSF grant from 2002-2006 to develop a Manufacturing Simulation Technology associate degree program, and from 2009-2010, Irwin served as PI for a Michigan Department of Education Title II Improving Teacher Quality grant targeting grade 5-12 physics and chemistry teachers’ use of inquiry learning and simulation technology. He is experienced in industry as well as the teaching profession with a career spanning five years in engineering design, several years part time consulting in industry, and 26 total years of teaching. Irwin has a research focus on evaluation of teaching and learning in the area of computer aided design, analysis, and manufacturing. Other professional affiliations include, ASEE Engineering Graphics Division Member, Vice Chair ASME MET Leadership Committee/ASME Board on Education Member, SME Accreditation Committee Member and ATMAE President Manufacturing Division.

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Joshua M. Pearce Department of Materials Science & Engineering and Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Joshua M. Pearce received his Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and holds Chemistry and Physics degrees from the same institution. He currently is an Associate Professor cross-appointed in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Michigan Technological University where he runs the Open Sustainability Technology Research Group. His research concentrates on the use of open source appropriate technology to find collaborative solutions to problems in sustainability and poverty reduction. His research spans areas of electronic device physics and materials engineering of solar photovoltaic cells, but also includes open-source 3-D printing, applied sustainability, energy policy, and engineering service learning.

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Gerald Anzalone Michigan Technological University

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Jerry is a research scientist at Michigan Technological University. His present interest is in open-source hardware and particularly with respect to advancing STEM curriculum in public education.

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Douglas E. Oppliger P.E. Michigan Technological University

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The RepRap 3-D Printer Revolution in STEM EducationAttendees will understand the advantages and challenges of entering the world of open-source 3-D printing for the good of STEM education.The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) place explicit emphasis on therelationship of engineering to science while it features a number of “Disciplinary CoreIdeas” such as “Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science”. These core ideasare in fact what are being taught in most Engineering Technology (ET) curricula as the“Engineering Process” or “Design Process”. The NGSS guidelines outline this as aniterative process involving; defining the problem, developing possible solutions, andoptimizing design solutions. The NGSS guidelines for K-12 science education are presentat all grade levels at varying degrees of detail. One of the recommendations of the ASMEVision 2030 report is that Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) programs shouldstrive towards creating curricula that inspire innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.A perfect tool for realizing these K-12 science standards and university program goals isthe RepRap 3-D printer, claimed by its’ creators to be “humanity’s first general-purposeself-replicating manufacturing machine”.The RepRap Project is completely open-source with the intent to improve the design witheach generation, adding revisions to the hardware as well as software capabilities. ETfaculty and high school science teachers have a need to develop projects where studentsexperience real-world examples of design-build-test accomplished in one or twosemesters inexpensively, and with tangible results. In ET programs each student mustcomplete a two semester capstone project sequence to meet the requirements forgraduation and to comply with ABET standards. Several interdisciplinary studentprojects can be accomplished that involve creating new applications for open-source 3-Dprinters, improvements of the printers themselves or production of new printable designs.High school science teachers and university faculty have recently come together toembrace the open-source 3-D printing technology. An Innovative AdditiveManufacturing (IAM) workshop was held in the summer of 2013 where twenty-fourteachers in groups of two participated, and after 4 days of building and testing, each leftwith a working RepRap 3-D printer. In addition to the IAM workshop, two high schoolbiology teachers attended a two week graduate level 2013 summer course, “TheEngineering Process”, which is intended to introduce engineering to pre-college teachersby providing them with a meaningful experience about the process and methods thatengineers use to solve problems. These two teachers built a RepRap in two days and thenlater with their biology students successfully printed a cogwheel for a mini centrifuge.The purchased components necessary to build the RepRap are largely available athardware stores and also from several suppliers, costing approximately $550 compared tothousands for commercially available 3-D printers. The affordability of this do-it-yourselfdesign and open sourcing lends itself to direct manipulation of the machine because nowarranties are being voided as high school and/or university students “tinker” withmechanics of the 3-D printer and enjoy near-immediate gratification from experiencingthe engineering process first hand.

Irwin, J. L., & Pearce, J. M., & Anzalone, G., & Oppliger, D. E. (2014, June), The RepRap 3-D Printer Revolution in STEM Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23175

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