Reducing the fear of failure via 3D printing

The new school year brings tons of opportunities for both teachers and students. For the former, it represents a fresh start with new goals for the upcoming year: helping students get better grades, reducing the number of failures, and presenting more engaging lessons.

Students, meanwhile, need to balance an increased workload and cope with the fear of failing. On top of this, they are also concerned with making new friends and exploring new career options.

Embedding new technologies in education can play an important role in helping overcome challenges. 3D printing, for example, can help to reduce fear of failure, increase engagement with students, and ultimately better prepare students for the future.

Failure is a chance to learn 

A recent article from the World Economic Forum encouraged employers to embrace failure as a chance to learn and to reinforce a culture that doesn’t place blame when things go wrong. For many students, the fear of failure can be overwhelming. From new classes to final exams, there is a lot for young learners to find stressful, and there is a very real risk that anxiety might stop them from achieving. The process of 3D printing helps them to view failure as an opportunity to reach a better final result: aside from the various learning aspects, such as a practical understanding of geometry and elegant design skills, they also learn how to look for solutions.

For example, reiterating designs is a large part of 3D printing, encouraging users to explore alternatives and rework problems. I believe that embedding 3D printing in learning methods at an early age helps to reduce the fear of failure in the short term and, further ahead, brings additional benefits to businesses when these young minds enter the workforce.

Rob Jones, Advanced Skills Teacher at Cowley International College, UK, agrees: “Our students are interested in 3D printing from the age of 11 right through to 18. It interests students with mathematical skills and scientific skills, but also creative skills of all ages and of all genders. It teaches them not to be afraid of making mistakes.”

3D printing triggers imagination

As someone whose career is built on 3D printing, I am often impressed by what children can do with the technology. Their imagination has no limits, and that is truly inspiring. I often see companies struggling when they are trying to embed new technologies into their workflow. Children on the other hand, have the ability and curiosity to see things from completely new perspectives.

Introducing 3D printing to the classroom

For today’s educators there are innumerable resources available to quickly get 3D printing started in the classroom. Through active online communities across the world, teachers are finding ways of connecting students and sharing lesson plans on a global scale. A lot of the software for 3D printing is freely available, and affordable desktop 3D printers are readily accessible, with training and support available both in person and online.

Gates noticed the added value of 3D printing

Bill Gates recently published a blogpost and video on the added value of 3D printing for students. “I had the opportunity to sit in one of the design classes offered to upperclassmen,” he wrote on “The teacher divided the students into small groups and asked them to create a holder for their headphones. Using modelling software and a 3D printer, they had to design a project that considered function, durability, and user friendliness. Each team had a different approach. I was blown away by how well thought-out each design was.”

Learning about 3D printing is definitely something both teachers and students can embark on together. By researching and troubleshooting issues together, there is more engagement, and educators can show classes that it’s normal not to create a perfect final model in one go; a mistake or flaw is something they can analyse and learn from as a team. With 3D printing, every team member plays a role. Together, groups can iterate designs, print them overnight and try again the following day. They learn that failure sparks new ideas that, in the end, lead to a better final product. With this hands-on experience in their back pocket, students have a better grasp of the creation process as they enter the workforce, and can also enjoy the benefit of confidence when it comes to new technologies.

Siert Wijnia is CTO and Co-Founder of Ultimaker