On the road in Hong Kong with the Ultimaker 2 Go printer

On the road in Hong Kong with the Ultimaker 2 Go printer

The Ultimaker Pioneer Program is made up of teachers who come from all over North America. They teach at a variety of levels, and may have been working with 3D printing for years, or they may just be starting out.

What they have in common, the special sauce that they share, is a desire to improve their teaching, to share ideas with others, to collaborate with others, and to do whatever it takes to make their teaching this year better than their teaching last year. They love what they do. They are passionate.

The Pioneer Program is a network of actively engaged educators who want to share their knowledge and experience. They want to show how 3D printing is capturing the attention of their students, and how it is inspiring their students to want to learn more, work harder, make their own discoveries and find their own passions.

Imagine what would happen if this network could be expanded?

Over a year ago, I found myself with a chance to travel to Hong Kong in the fall of 2016. I immediately saw this trip as an opportunity to meet with and talk to teachers on the other side of the world, to see what they were doing in their classrooms, and to hopefully find inspiration.

From the very beginning, Ultimaker’s vision has been to make 3D printing accessible to everyone, everywhere. So in September, I traveled to Hong Kong with an Ultimaker 2 Go. The backpack add-on made the Ultimaker 2 Go easy to travel with. On the plane from New York to Hong Kong the printer conveniently fit above my seat in the overhead compartment. The Ultimaker 2 Go box is actually one inch too long in two directions to satisfy most airline’s carry-on requirements, and unfortunately, while lucky on the way over, on the way home, Hong Kong’s stricter carry-on policy forced me to wrap the machine up (the airport actually has a service for this which cost around $13) and check it through. I am happy to report that the printer not only survived its trip around the world unscathed, but actually came home better than when it left— it now has the Olsson block and a new TFM Isolator Coupler, both installed while in Hong Kong.

The 2 Go at Discovery Bay
Traveling in Hong Kong with the Ultimaker 2 Go

Before leaving New York, I arranged to visit a few international schools that either had their own programs or they were interested in others’ CAD and STEAM programs. Visiting the schools was a great way to see a new city. It was my first time in Hong Kong, and I got to travel all over the island, including areas not often visited by tourists. I had the opportunity to meet people in their own environment, and to see their daily lives in action. While some visits were short—just 45 minutes—other were longer, allowing me to observe classes and to talk with different faculty members.

During my stay in Hong Kong, I visited the West Island School, the Island School, Nord Anglia, the Kennedy School, the Hong Kong International School, Discovery College and the Harbour School . Everyone I met with was welcoming and open to sharing information about their students, objectives and strategies. Brian C. Smith from the Hong Kong International School (HKIS) even spent a Sunday with me, introducing me to Cesar Herada, inventor, environmentalist, entrepreneur, and Director of MakerBay, a Hong Kong MakerSpace, and then we took a trip together to the Hong Kong electronics market.

At each school, many acronyms (IB, DP, PYP, MYP, CAS, ICT, D&T, GCSE, IGCSE, and BTEC)1 were bandied about, sometimes several in a single sentence. When I was on my own, I sorted them out and looked deeper into the IB Education. I found a document informed by multiple perspectives, many of which were American and the often the same references that have inspired the teaching practices of my US colleagues.2

While many of the schools I visited were IB schools, the Harbour School and the Hong Kong International School took an American approach to the college preparatory curriculum. Regardless of the ultimate diploma, the students were working towards, teachers in Hong Kong were much like the teachers I know in the states. We all want our students to be engaged, to be open-minded, to ask good questions, to learn how to be independent and creative thinkers, to push boundaries, and to become lifelong learners. And while we don’t all refer to it as CAS, which is the creativity, activity, and service component of the IB DP, we all want our students to be well-rounded and to be citizens of the world, to be globally minded, responsible, and principled, to understand and appreciate other cultures and to think about the future of the planet and to learn how they can affect meaningful change. As teachers, most of us want to be facilitators, and as such, we don’t have to have all the answers, nor do we need to know how to do everything. We just need to be able to help our students find the answers to their questions, to help them figure out what it is they need to learn, and to provide guidance so that they can go about learning it. And we need to be patient and allow them to make their own discoveries. Whether we call it a “design cycle” or a “design process”, on both sides of the world we see the importance of taking a hands-on approach to education and to engaging in research, design, building, testing, iterating, and communicating.

Having looked at a few IB student portfolios, the IB Design Cycle may have a little more structure than many of the design/engineering portfolios that I have seen from the states, but the different versions seem to include the same common principles.

Design Cycle

From c21learners.com

Design Process
From www.abss.k12.nc.us

For an example of an Engineering Design Portfolio see Marcel Duhaime’s sample portfolio, a format he uses to help his students better document their use of the design process when answering questions, solving problems or making decisions.

Makerspaces, fablabs, STEM and STEAM are hot topics here and in Hong Kong. Some of the schools I visited have amazing set ups, while others were working on figuring how to set something up with limited funds. The West Island School (WIS) had a design and technology space that would make anyone interested in makerspaces green with envy. They recently renovated and created a multi-room, well lit, well organized space with laser cutters, a lathe, band saws, a Carvey, 3D printers, welding equipment and even a spray room.



Fusion 360
A model created by a WIS middle school student using Fusion360

WIS ensures that all their middle school students have experience using hand and digital fabrication tools. The knowledge and skills that they acquire empowers all students, and fully prepares those who want to pursue Design and Technology. Nord Anglia was just starting with STEAM. They recently received approval to purchase a 3D printer and they were in the midst of brainstorming how to create a school wide STEAM event that combines high and low tech. Brian C. Smith, a faculty member at Constructing Modern Knowledge and a teacher at HKIS was busy setting up his inquiry-based technology space. Teachers at the Kennedy school were having trouble seeing how 3D printing could be used across disciplines until I showed them projects from pioneer Ian Klapper’s school City and Country in NYC (Cylinder seals, wax seals, islamic tiles, game board pieces, recreated Italian architecture, and moveable type), and how 3D printed objects can be used to teach about historical and cultural artifacts by creating mock archeological digs or used for researching and recreating a town or city’s past in Europe or in the US, or help students invent the future. Or how you could use 3D printing to make tactile maps or aids to help teach students who are visually impaired. I showed them how teachers like pioneer Caroline Latham, Aubree Stephens and Tanya Lerch work with their students and Enabling the Future to create prosthetic hands for children. We also talked about using 3D printing to create real or imagined mythological figures, historical figures, coins and monetary systems, and temples, how students could design their own measuring devices like sundials, astrolabes, or clepsydras, and how teachers could explain math concepts through 3D printed manipulatives. I also showed them Marsyas and the Taung Child skull to show how scanning and 3D printing can bring the museum to the classroom.

Brian's bookshelf
Brian C. Smith’s classroom bookshelf

During my visit to WIS I saw past work in the form of digital portfolios and posters. The digital portfolios documented projects in all stages. Sample portfolios used Google slides and included the following sections:

  • Context — Statement of the problem, essential questions to be addressed and proposal.
  • Documentation of idea generation—a Mind-map is an example of how a student could brainstorm and capture ideas.
  • Research Plan

    • What does the student need to find out?
    • How will student find answers?
    • What type of research is involved
    • Priority of tasks
    • Justification of why question needs to be researched

  • Target Audience

    • Why would individual or group need or want product?
    • How often would they use product?
    • What special features does product need to incorporate?
    • Are there material considerations based on user preferences or values?

  • Product Data — Description of materials, hardware, and or electronics used and what these inclusions mean in terms of design.
  • Product analysis (Primary) — An overview of existing products or systems (generic) and an analysis of their pros and cons.
  • Product analysis (Secondary) — An overview of specific products or systems and an analysis of their pros and cons.
  • Inspiration board/ Design morgue
  • Inspiration board/ Design morgue for packaging of product or system
  • Design Specifications — For each topic (function and performance, form, user requirements, target market, safety, materials, costs, environmental considerations) presentation of  criteria, justification, validation, and whether design specification is essential or desirable
  • Design Ideas — Annotated sketches
  • Prototypes — Annotated sketches and photos
  • Documentation of development — Annotated sketches
  • Orthographic Drawings
  • CAD Prototype
  • Documentation of build process
  • Final Product
  • Assessment
  • User Feedback
  • Redesign

Time is always an issue and I was impressed with not only the work involved in completing their projects, but the thoroughness of their documentation. I now see how essential it is to insist that students capture all aspects of their projects at all times. Take pictures of your notes, your drawings, your build process, your prototypes, your failures and your successes. Better to have more information than you need, than not to have enough. If you constantly update your portfolio, drive, presentation, then documentation cannot become an afterthought.

Visiting the schools in Hong Kong reinforced my belief in the importance of being part of a global community of educators who are passionate about what they do and who are open to sharing experiences, best practices and ideas. We should be learning from each other all the time, and we should be able to see what inspires and motivates the students of other teachers, and apply it to our own teaching practices. As the Ultimaker Pioneer Program expands, our community will be able to take advantage of a global cross-pollination of ideas. Our network of educators will share inspiration from all parts of the world, and we will be able to combine, modify, and build upon their ideas to create better educational experiences and practices wherever we may be.


WIS Project
A project from WIS that solves a problem, and incorporates the various skills learned with sustainable materials and 3D Printing

An example from WIS for sketching ideas for project

Poster at WIS for parts of project

Poster at WIS for parts of project

Design Cycle
Design Process poster in Andy York’s Island School classroom

Discovery College
Autocad template for middle school project at Discovery College

3D printing projects at Discovery College

Island School
3D printing projects from the Island School

Discovery Bay
Harbour School
School visits
Nord Anglia


1. Acronyms

IBInternational Baccalaureate®
IB DPInternational Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (The DP is preceded by the IB’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP)).
DPDiploma Programme
PYPPrimary Years Programme for ages 3-12
MYPMiddle Years Programme for ages 11-16
CPIB Career-related Programme  16-19
CAScreativity, activity, service component of the DP
ICTInformation and Communications Technology
D&TDesign and Technology
GCSEGeneral Certificate of Secondary Education
IGCSEThe International General Certificate of Secondary Education
BTECBusiness and Technology Education Council Level 3 Extended Diploma
FD Foundation Diploma

2. Selected references from What is an IB Education

  • Audet, RH and Jordan LJ, (eds). 2005. Integrating inquiry across the curriculum. Thousand Oaks, California, USA. Corwin Press.
  • Boyer, EL. 1995. The Basic School: A community for learning. Stanford, California, USA. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • Brooks, JG and Brooks, MG. 1999. In search of understanding; The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, Virginia, USA. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Bruner, J. 1996. Culture of education. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Harvard University Press.
  • Bruner, J, Goodnow, J and Austin, G. 1986.  A study of thinking. New York, USA. John Wiley.
  • Dewey, J. 1909. Moral principles in education. In LA Hickman and TA Alexander (eds). The Essential Dewey volume 2. 1998. Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Indiana University Press.
  • Dewey, J. 1916. Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York, USA. Macmillan.
  • Dewey, J. 1933. How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Heath.
  • Gardner, H. 2011. Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York, USA. Basic Books.
  • Gee, JP. 1990.  Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses. New York, USA. The Falmer Press.
  • Grant, CA and Portera, A. 2011. Intercultural and multicultural education: Enhancing global connectedness. New York, USA. Routledge.
  • English, F, (ed). 2004. Sage handbook of educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, California, USA. Sage Publications.
  • Hanvey, R. 2004. An attainable global perspective. New York, USA. American Forum for Global Education
  • Kincheloe, JL. 2004. Critical pedagogy: A primer. New York, USA. Peter Lang.
  • Perkins, D. 1995. Smart schools: Better thinking and learning for every child. New York, USA. Free Press.
  • Perkins, D. 1999. “The many faces of constructivism”. Educational Leadership. Vol 57.3. Pp 6-11.
  • Piaget, J. 1970. Structuralism. New York, USA. Basic Books.
  • Stiggins, RJ. 2001. Student-involved classroom assessment (third edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA. Merrill/Prentice-Hall.
  • Waxman, H and Walberg, H, (eds). 1991. Effective teaching: Current research, Berkeley, California, USA. McCutchan Publishing Corporation.
  • Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. 2005. Understanding by design. New Jersey, USA. Pearson.