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Design-based Thinking and 3D Printing

Design- based thinking is the thought processes involved in developing solution to design needs and opportunities (NESA, 2017). The design process identifies such thought processes and recognizes five stages involved in creating a designed solution (NESA, 2017). The five phases are:

  1. Discovery
  2. Interpretation
  3. Ideation
  4. Experimentation
  5. Evolution

There are many benefits of learning by design. It promotes engagement and intellectual quality through discussion, problem solving, theorising, drawing conclusions and developing deep understanding (Haren, 2010). Learning by design enables students to be active learners as they enact, develop, determine and evaluate, rather than passively receive information (Haren, 2010). Design-based thinking and learning is collaborative, student-centred, experimental, and creative (Bower et al., 2018).

3D Printing using Makerspaces and Tinkercad

3D printing is an emerging technology that could improve students learning outcomes (Bower et al., 2018). Makerspaces is an organization that offers such technology. It also provides teachers with numerous learning activities and lessons to undertake. Makerspace activities using 3D printing has been proven to demonstrate extensive design thinking skills in many phases of the design process (Bower et al., 2018). Within the lessons, it is essential there is a balance of explicit instruction and open-ended inquiry within the lessons (Bower et al., 2018). Giving students authentic, real-life problems to solve using 3D technology promotes student creativity as they design many different solutions and later produce them using 3D technology.

Tinkercad is a free-to-use, online program that allow people to ‘think, create, and make’ (Tinkercad, n.d.). It is a software than be used for 3D design as it provides a space for people to create their design by placing, adjusting, and combining objects and shapes (Tinkercad, n.d.). Tinkercard provides a platform where creativity can flourish as it provides students with the opportunity to explore, experiment, and create their design before they 3D print.


Although there are many benefits to 3D printing there also limitations. The biggest limitation is the cost of the technology. School subscription to makerspaces is $300 and 3D printers can reach up to $3500. Furthermore, schools would need to have the digital resources to have such technology.


Bower, M., Stevenson, M., Falloon, G., Forbes, A., Hatzigianni, M. (2018). Makerspaces in Primary School Settings – Advancing 21st Century and STEM capabilities using 3D Design and 3D Printing. Sydney, Australia: Macquarie University. Available at:

van Haren, R. (2010). Engaging learner diversity through learning by design. E-Learning and Digital Media, 7(3), 258-271

Makers Empire. (n.d.). 3D Printing in makerspaces. Retrieved from

NESA. (2017). Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus. Retrieved from

Tinkercad. (n.d.). TINKERCAD. Retrieved from


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