#3DPrinting with 9 year olds

Looking back a few years, I’m sure that I could not have foreseen my classroom over the last few weeks. 

My key question at the end of the process came from a colleague.


So here’s the back story.

Our Year 4 classes have become populated with town planners and designers. 

This culminated two weeks ago with 3D printing. 

‘I’ve never done this before,’ I explained to the first group but within a week I’d had a lot more experience. 

Their project was stimulated by a kit from @kidesign which leads step by step through the stages of planning a city and the vital buildings and services that the children choose. 

There’s a lot of Geography 

We discussed and justified our choices. So we need a supermarket more than green house? 

What other structure can be found with policing? No one suggested government. 

We eventually decided money came from somewhere and that a bank could be useful. 

Where shall we live?

Designing a house is a funny business. Many seemed to be very iconic until we discussed other options like roof gardens and swimming pools. Were we copying houses or reinventing them?

2D and 3D Design process

We reasearched buildings and their uses. Abundant dramatic images fueled everyone’s imagination. It got very exciting. 

Working with 3D was very hard. Trying to line things up in 2D only to find with a quick rotation that the piece just added was hovering in mid air far beyond the blended base. 

Trying and failing got quite familiar habits. 

The printer arrived….

amidst great excitement, Teacher anxiety levels rose,  this was the big moment. 

It worked!

And now for the big question?


Why do we use 3D printing. For the children it was exciting and different. But when we discussed it we came up with some useful ideas. 

“It helps to test ideas”

“It’s a cheap way to model something.”

But I dug deeper. 3D is revolutionizing manufacturing. Where a room full of engineering machines, each with one job and potentially one operator, each do one process in an object, now a 3D printer can create all the parts. It takes less space, different skills and is more accessible. 3D is being used to make buildings, food and prosthetic limbs. 

For the children holding something they made that is totally unique and their own design was special. 

Today we photographed the buildings in real settings so that they came to life. 

Now we know why. 

Is there a new technological process you’ve explored?

Was it risky?or fulfilling? Did the frustrations come good in the end? 


3D Printing Journeys 

The children in Year 4 at my school have taken a new role this term. They are city designers. 

Their task?

Design a city. Starting off consider the services and facilities a city needs. 

We identified five categories of building: 

  • -energy and water 
  • -food
  • -education and culture
  • -entertainment and leisure
  • And finally governance

In each category separate teams argued for and against specific options. 

‘We need a supermarket to provide food more than a green house to grow it because we need a wider range of foods than a greenhouse can provide for our city.’

‘We need a police station more that a parliament building to keep our people safe.’
When two options in each category had been selected we did some research. What would a swimming pool building look like?

Then it was time to design our own accommodation. Think big! There were solar houses with roof gardens and high tech transport options. 

The design research process for the buildings focussed on zones in the city. It was quickly established that the desalination plant should be near water and the airport should be away from house. While our cinema should be much more central and accessible with public transport. 
So many thoughtful connections and knowledge was shared. 
Each element needed information and two dimensional diagrams. The ideas came thick and fast. 
We started transferring the concepts to 3D with Tinkercad, a straightforward online tool. When we work in 3D we have to consider new relationships between object. Are they lined up horizontally and vertically. We learned to group objects that were solid with holes to make arches and doorways. 

As we reached the next phase. The files had to be converted to .STL format for the Ultimaker printer. 

We thought about dimensions, overhangs and gaps. Would the structure of our build work in 3D. Some decide they shouldn’t print as success wasn’t guaranteed. 

The outcome?

A city was born without a name. That’s the next step. To choose one. 

Why do we 3D print?

Printing this way is revolutionizing manufacturing. A 3D building has been printed in Amsterdam. 


The Netherlands is developing 3D printing in many fields from construction to clothing. 3D is also a form being explored in medicine to support prosthetics production. 

The Dutch city of Venlo is soon to host a conference with a focus on 3D printed food.


Who can tell what will be 3D printed in the not too distant future?