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Using 3D printing to activate project based learning within the classroom

As the world continues to evolve, teachers are continuously seeking innovative ideas to implement in their classrooms along with their traditional methods of teaching. The new ways of learning will help advance students’ skill sets in order to prepare them for future jobs along with jobs that have not yet been developed. By implementing 3D printing, students will learn how to incorporate the elements of the design cycle. It allows them to go from textbook to critical thinking and problem solving. These lesson plans will present the student with a problem, devise a solution, test it, fail, revise, and then try again. This will ultimately prepare them to succeed in their next stage of life beyond education.

"The world is not 2D; we are equipping our students to compete, excel, and succeed in a 3D world. We use Robo’s 3D printers daily, and they inspire creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving."


With more than 20 years as an educator, Shelley Emslie has become one of the biggest advocates for the use of 3D printers in the classroom. Coming from a small rural town of Bigfork, Montana, she teacher at Swan Middle School, which has one teacher per grade and only 169 students. As the only 5th grade teacher, Shelley is determined to provide her students with all of the necessary tools to help guide them to a bright future. Attending multiple tradeshows, Shelley was introduced to 3D printers and immediately thought of all of the potential that they can bring to her two-stoplight town. Knowing the challenges she faces with the school operating with a very limited budget, Shelley knew she wanted to be that teacher who brought 3D printing to the classroom.

“Robo has the vision for the future of innovative education.”


After visiting multiple 3D printer booths and discussing different models of 3D printers with vendors, Shelley decided that Robo was the right fit for her school district.

With the help of Robo’s Education Grant Guide, she reached out to Donor’s Choose and was able to obtain a donation of Robo’s 3D printers for the Swan River School District.


Shelley and her students were now faced with the question, “What do we print?” The introduction of new technologies to students and educators come with some learning curves. Utilizing readily available education focused files found on the internet and the Robo 3D curriculum, gave Shelley an initial platform to begin incorporating elements of 3D printing to NGSS and common core standards. Once Shelley and the students saw that they can create something out of nothing, she began incorporating elements of the design cycle through 3D lesson plans. The students started to learn how to use Tinkercad, a beginner 3D design software, which allowed them to create their own designs for specific lesson plans. They were able to test their designs and with each print that did not work, they went back to the design software to iterate until they had a successful print. In no time, Shelley was actually learning new 3D design tactics from some of her own students!

After a year of implementing 3D printing into her classroom, Shelley has learned new capabilities with her 3D printers. She initially started off with two Robo R1+ 3D printers, which she mentions that they are workhorses. Often times, the Robo R1+ runs throughout the entire day. Shelley now has the Robo R2 and Robo C2 3D printers. Using Octoprint, she learned that she can print through any device with a Wi-Fi connection.

“I have come to love my Robo printers and love the ease of the Robo C2 & Robo R2. The fact that we can print straight from Chromebooks has been transformational.”


Using onboard slicing, Shelley and her students can download any STL file and send it directly to the printer. Bypassing any use of a computer has allowed her to save about two hours manipulating and preparing the file to print.


Shelley mentions, “The problem I solved with Robo is simplicity. Robo has made it possible for the average teacher, with no 3D printing experience, to be successful. And with the education platform as a starter to 3D design and 3D printing lessons, I felt like I had great content to get me on the road to implementing 3D printing successfully. Opportunities for students in a rural school are often limited, and I viewed 3D printing as an invaluable experience to expose my learners to the future,” says Shelley.

About Robo

Robo is the future of 3D printing, and that future is now — whose goal is to give makers of all ages and skills levels the tool needed to help turn their passion into a physical reality, as quickly and as easily as possible.

Founded in 2012 by a group of students from San Diego State University, Robo delivered its first model to customers in 2013. Since then, the company has grown into a leading brand in the desktop segment of the 3D printing industry.

Robo is based in sunny San Diego and continues to improve the total experience of 3D printing with its diverse range of products — most recently with the launch of the Robo C2 compact smart 3D printer with Wi-Fi and the Robo R2 high performance 3D printer with Wi-Fi.


Shelley Emslie, 5th Grade Teacher

Google for Education Certified Trainer; G-suite Admin for Swan Middle School; Newsela Certified Educator; PenPalSchools Global Ambassador


Swan Middle School in Bigfork, Montana

Experienced Benefits

Incorporating 3D thinking into the classroom and letting students learn the design cycle at a young age.



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3D Printers Used

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