Jun 1, 2017 | By Tess

An elementary school in Houston has shown how 3D printing can be used as an educational tool, helping kids to learn to speak Spanish through visual aids. Javier Montiel, a bilingual education teacher at the Velasco Elementary School, came up with the clever idea and was able to execute it thanks to the school’s in-house LulzBot Mini 3D printer.

While we spend a lot of our time covering stories about breakthrough 3D printing technologies and how the technology is impacting the aerospace, medical, and manufacturing industries, it is always nice to be reminded that 3D printing can be used to improve just about anyone’s life.

Montiel’s story is particularly endearing, as the elementary school teacher realized he could use 3D printing to help his students learn Spanish syllables and to understand the basic phonetic principles of the romance language.

For anyone who has tried to learn a new language (and isn’t a natural!), you know it can be near impossible to grasp certain grammatical structures or even just sounds. Try as I might, I can never master the rolling Rs needed to make Spanish sound natural. Perhaps if I’d had 3D printed visual aids as a young child…

Montiel described his educational revelation, saying: “After a deep reflection process of what could be the best approach for these students to write and manipulate syllables, my first thought was to cut and laminate bulky cards. Then I raised my head, and I saw the school’s LulzBot Mini 3D Printer. Just like a flash, inside my mind, I saw the syllables being printed and my students touching, manipulating, dragging, and dropping the complete syllables to create words with them.”

The idea was to give the students a tactile and engaging way to work with the words; to touch and play with them rather that just look at them on a paper. Using the 3D printed letters, the students first worked with Text to Speech technology which allowed them to check if words they had constructed were correct.

Once that stage was passed, the students then used Syllable Working Mat Paper to “produce the words using their working memory” with the 3D printed letters and syllables. For even more fun, Montiel 3D printed a set of the Spanish syllables with rings integrated to their design so that they could be strung on a shoelace or other string to make a necklace. He hoped this approach would help kids keep practicing the language throughout the day by wearing it.

(Images: Javier Montiel)

Of course, the exercise also offered some STEM benefits as well, as Montiel was able to integrate some 3D printing education into the language study. “3D printing is a great way to materialize the needs and possibilities of educators like myself by allowing us to create with our hands our dreams and ideas in plastic,” he said.

The 3D printer used by Montiel and his class was the LulzBot Mini, a low-cost ($1,250) and open-source desktop 3D printer made by Aleph Objects.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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