BETT 2016 Highlights Part 4: The Global Classroom and 3D Printing


Earlier blog posts from Digitales on BETT 2016 have covered:

  1. STEM and Social Media
  2. Creative Impact of Technology
  3. Functional Digital Skills

Part 4 of the series considers the Global Classroom and 3D Printing. 

Global Classroom

A Learning Live workshop from Ann Michaelsen visiting from Sandvika High School, Norway, demonstrated ‘live’ images of learning from Australian classrooms. The learners talked about their experiences as they connected via Skype Education, Google Hangouts, YouTube and most of all writing blogs for online conversations.

Michaelsen also talked more about how the global classroom can engage students on her website.

PRIMARY Coding and 3D

3D printing was highlighted to enhance learning opportunities in STEM and STEAM. The speakers encouraged ‘engagement challenges’ as primary students programmed 3D printers.


Digitales at the BETT Show.

Workshops used ‘Sketcher’ which we notice has mixed reviews.

We asked Digitales cataloguer and Makerspace member, Jennifer Strover, about resources learners can use to start with 3D printing. She recommends the following tools:

  • TinkerCAD: A very simple, but surprisingly versatile, browser-based 3D design tool. Users can click and drag standard shapes into the print area, group and resize to create more complex objects. Perfect for getting used to drawing in a 3D environment.
  • Sketch-Up: A more powerful, desktop 3D design program. The free version includes all the features a beginner could need. Originally developed by Google, one of Sketch-Up’s major advantages is a huge library of excellent online video tutorials.
  • OpenSCAD: If you have a background in coding, you might find this free 3D design software easier to work with. Instead of drawing shapes with a mouse as you would in most programs, in OpenSCAD the user enters code and measurements, from which the program draws an object.

Other than that, if you have access to a 3D printer, and just want to get printing, there are websites where you can find pre-existing libraries of printable models.

Thingiverse is one of the longest established, and features many well-designed models, some of which can be personalised on the website using the Customizer tool.

Commercial print-on-demand services can also print your models using advanced, industrial 3D printers, in a huge range of materials.

Some such as Shapeways and iMaterialise have online marketplaces (think of them as Etsy for 3D printing) where you can select a model made by one of their sellers, and have it printed in the material of your choice, including metals, porcelain and different kinds of plastic.

During BETT, Digitales repeatedly visited numerous 3D printing demonstrations, including Create Education. The prosthetic hand below is a favourite outcome of our time at BETT.  It was created in five hours and used in in the field in Africa.


3D-printed prosthetic hand.

There was also a wrench, which happened to be the first object designed on Earth and manufactured in space. It wasn’t the first 3D-printed object made in space, but it is the first created to meet the needs of an astronaut.


NASA’s wrench.

To find out more…

Engage with your local maker community! There is so much valuable advice and encouragement they can give you, and most groups have pages on, which you can search by location and category. has a map of independent makerspaces.

Your local school, public library or community centre may also have a makerspace.

Keep an eye out for public open days such as Maker Faires and other independent events.