Aug 5, 2016 | By Alec

Learn as you play: it’s a principle that is being increasingly applied to education everywhere, especially through the digitization of classrooms. The idea is that by making education interactive and enjoyable, children could be more open to learning and will be more likely to pursue higher education – especially in the STEM fields. And 3D printing could play a huge role in that process, as it provides a fantastic opportunity for students to work with 3D design and production principles, and see the results form in front of their eyes.

As a result, 3D printers are slowly creeping into science classrooms all over the world, and are already helping teachers promote STEM careers. But now one startup called ULIO has found a way that could maximize the educational value of 3D printing with a special kit. Called the ULIO, it’s a 3D printer kit that teaches children all the basics of 3D design, drafting, engineering and robotics. And, of course, about 3D printing itself. It does so by enabling kids to 3D print and assemble their very own making machine. What’s more, once completed they have fully functioning 3D printer at their disposal.

Of course the very idea of 3D printing a 3D printer is everything but new; the RepRap movement has been doing exactly that for years. While popular, RepRap isn’t very appealing to uninitiated designers with little engineering experience. What’s more, a lot of RepRap builds feature very few 3D printed components and instead largely consist of off-the-shelf parts that are assembled by hand. While the ULIO saw the appeal of this concept, they have maximized the number of 3D printed parts, forming what could be the most 3D printed 3D printer out there.

As they explain, they believe that by maximizing the amount of 3D printed parts, they can optimize the appeal of 3D printing itself. “At ULIO 3D we love helping passionate teachers get involved in 3D printing and achieve amazing things. We would like to share our passion by helping you 3D print colorful, upgradeable, affordable and easy to assemble 3D printers for your students,” the ULIO team said.

But they have also made the entire RepRap experience as accessible as possible. Their kit contains all the necessary parts to assemble a fully functional 3D printer, and comes with a detailed instruction manual which will enable students to 3D print, assemble and calibrate the 3D printer themselves. The final 3D printer is a very friendly and accessible machine that can be built in any filament color that is desired – even glow in the dark. It also features a build volume of 4 x 4 x 3 inches, and can be 3D printed on any 3D printer with an 8 x 8 x 8 inch build volume.

Therein also lies perhaps the one drawback of the ULIO: you need to have a 3D printer up and running to actually build this kit. But as more and more classrooms already have a 3D printer in operation, that shouldn’t be a huge problem. And with that one machine, schools can now populate their entire classroom with 3D printers and reap the educational benefits while they’re at it. “ULIO is without a doubt a useful STEMazing project packed with educational value that students will be eager to make year after year at their school,” its designers say.

What’s more, the 3D printer itself seems to be a very decent machine. Judging by the available pictures, the 3D printing quality isn’t bad at all – especially when 3D printing at a 0.1 mm later height. But more will doubtlessly become known as soon as the ULIO hits Indiegogo for crowdfunding, which is scheduled for Tuesday 9 August. Early bird kits will be priced at just $299 USD, which could be a very good deal if performance is up to par.

 

 

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