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Teaching STEM with 3D printed bottle rockets

The kids at primary school De Singelier learn about STEM in a fun and engaging way. They build rockets from PET bottles using 3D printed parts and launch them using water pressure. As the children go through multiple iterations to arrive at a working design, they learn about the nature of design and development; about identifying the flaws in preceding versions, learning from it and improving the rocket accordingly. Read on to find a comprehensive lesson plan to incorporate this project into your school's educational program.

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Watch the video

Let's build a rocket!

The class covers all aspects of designing the rocket; from stencil drawing to designing in TinkerCad to 3D printing the parts. Kids are encouraged to test their designs and see what works. Is the nose cone sharp enough? What shape should the wings have? What happens if you play around with different designs? They embark on an explorative journey of trial and error to finally arrive at a design that gets the rocket high up in the air.

Every device around us was once tested by someone, has failed, and has been improved again. That's a great learning experience for the students to have.

According to Freek van Iersel, a 7th grade teacher at De Singelier, an important aspect of this project is that the children get to see that it is OK if an idea fails. Every device we use in our daily lives was once tested, then improved upon and tested again - it's how the design process works. For the kids, it is valuable to learn that while some ideas work out better than others, a failed attempt should be approached as an opportunity for improvement rather than mere failure. The example of this school shows how a rocket project is used to this end, but there are innumerable other ways to engage your students in a fun way through 3D printing.


Lesson plan

3D printing allows children to turn their ideas into tangible objects. It stimulates their creativity and encourages them to rethink their previous designs. Projects like these significantly impact the learning experience of the students - by finding out for themselves how certain ideas work in practice, they will remember the lessons they learnt more vividly when compared to only reading or hearing about it.

Here you can download the booklet written by 3Dkanjers as a lesson plan for incorporating the bottle rocket project into the teaching program at your school. The standard, predesigned parts of the rocket can be printed here, but we encourage you to alter and redesign them in class. If you've come up with a nice design that you'd like to share, please upload it on YouMagine and inspire other schools to include projects like these into their curriculum as well.

Download lesson plan

There are many ways in which 3D printing can be used to enhance the students' learning experience in modern-day primary education. It offers near-endless possibilities to fire up imagination, foster teamwork and overall make learning more fun. Discover how 3D printing can boost learning here:

3D printing in primary education