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Being able to create something from nothing is part of the dream for every science fiction writer. Designing on a computer is is only half of the creation process. We need to be able to test our virtual creations to see if they stand up to real world rigor. It was only a few years ago that these printers were very large and too expensive to be included in the learning process. 3D printers are smaller and more affordable for even the home hobbyist to get into using.

Why do we need to use 3D printers in schools?
We spend a lot of time and effort having students build in a physical form and then capture digitally. We are so concerned about that 21st century skills only exist as a digital end product. We need to complete the circle. Students need to create in a digital medium and demonstrate the in the physical. Student need to connect the physical and digital worlds they live in.

What is a 3D Printer?
When someone asks me about a 3D printer, I compare it to a glue gun that moves back and forth laying down each layer. Most people understand how a glue gun works. Put a stick of glue in the back of the gun, squeeze the trigger and a smaller liner of glue comes out the front. This is a very simple answer to any novice. The complex answer is that computer that has a design on it send it to the printer. The software on the compare slices the drawing creating a paths for the extruder to print. The slices turn into a language called G-code. The code is sent to the printer to be printed. The printer is connected to spool of filament. Certain printer can print different types of filament. Most Makerbots print PLA filament.

Here is a page of printers to choose from if you are looking for one to purchase.