Japan interested in 3-D printing

Japan is increasingly interested in how the US is using technology in education to expand future job creation.

Nippon Television Network Corporation, based in Tokyo, recently sent a news crew to visit a series of schools across the nation, starting at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Virginia. The school is part of a statefunded collaboration with the University of Virginia and known as a “laboratory school for advanced manufacturing technologies”.

Nippon’s correspondent, Takashi Yanagiswa, says his government is particularly interested in the way the project uses science and engineering to prepare students for high-tech jobs. The Japanese crew filmed the Buford science students making prototype sound speakers from plastic and paper, using three-dimensional printers and computer-design software to produce the parts.

Whilst some may never have heard of them, 3-D printers are available across the world, and their production costs have dropped. Manufacturers and engineers predict that they will change how goods are made in the near future.

Having access to a 3-D printer doesn’t mean you can automatically churn out products, though. Glen Bull, a professor of instructional technology and co-director of the Centre for Technology and Teacher Education at the University of Virginia, says students also need to learn about the maths, science and engineering software that drives the devices.

Bull is part of a team at the university working in the schools of education and engineering and applied science. The goal, Bull says, is to develop coursework that can be replicated in schools nationwide, starting by networking Buford with other schools across the state. All the schools will be linked to the university via videoconferencing.

“It’s something we probably should consider in our country as well,” says Yanagisawa.

Category: e-Education, Winter 2013

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