Should we be concerned with 3D printer emissions?

3D printing is a relatively new technology in schools. We know that 3D printers produce fumes and smells into the air during printing but how much do we know about the potential health risks associated with 3D printing?

3D printers release a variety of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Ultra Fine Particles (UFPs) into the air during the heating of the print filament. Two of the most common filament types are:

  1. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), a petroleum-based material.
  2. PLA (PolyLactic Acid) which is derived from corn starch.

Others include: TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane), an extremely flexible polyurethane based plastic, Carbon filament, Grass filament, Metal filament, Hemp filament and Beer filament.

Volatile Organic Compounds. “VOCs are a group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. Many common household materials and products, such as paints and cleaning products, give off VOCs. Common VOCs include acetone, benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, toluene and xylene.” Australia – state of the environment.

All filaments produce VOCs and UFPs. The amount and type is determined by the filament used and to a much lesser extent the type of printer used. ABS releases more toxic VOCs including styrene and formaldehyde, the first a suspected human carcinogen and the second a known one. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a corn-based plastic found in medical implants, drinking cups, and disposable diapers and emits methyl methacrylate, a mild skin irritant.

While PLA is considered a safer product than ABS, additives applied to PLA filaments to increase things like shine and electrical conductivity can change emissions significantly. It is also important to note that HEPA filters do not filter VOCs effectively or at all, only UFPs.

All filament types emit UFPs which are small enough to get into the lungs and blood stream and have been linked with respiratory and cardiovascular disease. A study by the Environmental, Science and Technology Journal showed that the highest UFP rates occurred with ABS filament and the lowest emissions with PLA.

At PBAS we use PLA filament and have 1 UP Box+ and 2 UP Mini printers which are in an enclosed space approximately 4m by 2.8m. This room has an air circulation vent and air conditioning system but no dedicated fume extraction system. All our printers are fully enclosed with HEPA filters that assist in reducing UFPs. Recent testing by the Built Environment Research Group at the Illinois Institute of Technology said the following about the UP Box+ enclosed filtering system:

  • Having an enclosed box reduced UFPs by 74% with no filter operating.
  • Having an enclosed box with the HEPA filter operating reduced UFPs by 91%.
  • Testing with the HEPA filter turned on also suggested some reduction in VOCs but was not conclusive.

While the longer term impacts of 3D printing in spaces like offices, schools and home environments are not fully known there are some things that can be taken from the current research:

  1. Print in a well ventilated space.
  2. Do not stay in the same space as the 3D printer for extended periods of time while it is printing.
  3. ABS filaments emit known carcinogenic chemicals.
  4. Use PLA filament.
  5. Use printers that are fully enclosed and include HEPA filters.

If you use 3D printers now, or are considering their use in the future then it is important to consider how you can reduce any potential health risks to yourself and your students.

Sources

WHAT TEACHERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SAFETY AND AIR FILTERS RE: 3D PRINTERS IN SCHOOLS

Volatile Organic Compounds Ambient Air Quality 2016

New 3D printer test: Up Box+ Printer with HEPA filter

3-D printer emissions raise concerns and prompt controls

Emissions of Ultrafine Particles and Volatile Organic Compounds from Commercially Available Desktop Three-Dimensional Printers with Multiple Filaments

Health study reveals harmful “toxic” effects of 3D printing

Mental Health, Screen Time, Social Media & Parent Concerns

We seem to blame screen time for everything – is there some truth in the following article or are we making tentative connections at best? As the article states “the research isn’t completely definitive”.

Sphero Edu App

Thanks to Jackie and Kelly for introducing us to the Sphero robots last Wednesday. As a follow up here is an overview of what is available on the Sphero Edu app. Currently the filtering at PBAS does not allow content from the Sphero website to appear on the app but I have requested that the filtering be changed to allow the content. So be aware that at this point in time you cannot access the following but very soon will be able to.

Home – Feed

This shows the Twitter feed for Sphero Education.

Home – 3D Models

This section allows you to see an exploded view of the Sphero.

 

Home – Settings

The settings section gives you a variety of options including links to the Sphero blog and JavaScript Wiki. So if you are keen to learn about JavaScript (written code) this may be useful.

Programs – My Programs

This is where the programs that you or your students make will be saved.

Programs – Sphero

This is where you can access programs created by the employees of Sphero. When you click on a program you get a written explanation of the program and a video to watch. There will be a link to open the code that has been written. The code will open in the Sphero Edu app and can be used by you or your students. This option allows students to invsetigate and analyse detailed coding. I have included a video below of the Animal Origami program.

Programs – Community

These are programs provided by the community of Sphero users who have submitted their programs to the website. Again you get a written explanation, a video and a link to download the code. To access the community programs you need to sign in with an account. It is a simple process to create an account for yourself.

Activities – Sphero

This section provides activities for teachers to do with their students. You need an account to access these in full. A great source of ideas!

Activities – Community

A huge range of STEM based activities created by the Sphero community. An excellent resource for teachers. I recommend signing in and and having a look at these. They provide step by step lesson plans and extra resources like videos and web links to support the lesson. I have added a video below that briefly shows the K’nex Chariot Challenge. While the video is not brilliant it gives you an idea of what you can expect to find when you access this content.

Robotics at PBAS

As our STEM redevelopment gradually reaches completion we have been able to update our robotics kits to more current technology, reinvigorating our robotics program.

To cater for R – 12 and provide at least two different platforms for students we have purchased the following two robotics kits:

The Mindstorm kits will replace the old Lego RCX programmable robotics kits while the Sphero’s will provide a flexible robotics platform that can be used R-12.

Why Robotics?

The company Tactile Theory explains through their website the following reasons why robotics is beneficial for student learning:

  1. It’s a fun and hands on activity.
  2. Robotics can be taught at any level. The Sphero Sprk robots can be programmed using three different methods – 1. Drawing a line in the app that a robot will then follow. 2. Drag and drop blocks that contain code and 3. Use text coding like Javascript.
  3. Using robotics kits can assist with developing fine motor skills. Children are involved in manually manipulating sensors, motors, blocks, remote controls, gears, joints, switches, and axels (Lego Robotics).
  4. Robotics provides a base for teaching programming. A physical robot allows students to test out what works, and what doesn’t and have a better understanding of the importance of precise instructions.  Research also indicates that by starting children early in robotics, the gender bias in STEM subjects is decreased significantly.
  5. The teaching of robotics allows schools to address a variety of Government and education department initiatives including of the The National STEM School Education Strategy, the Australian Curriculum and the DECD STEM Learning Strategy.
  6. Robotics can assist students to learn skills that are applicable to future employment. Involving children in quality robotics programs can provide students with opportunities to be critical thinkers, innovators, collaborators and leaders while applying scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical principals.
  7. Teaching robotics assists with computational thinking. Recognising aspects of computation in the world and being able to think logically, algorithmically and abstractly.  Robotics can help develop computational thinking by teaching children how to “think like a computer” and use concepts of computer science to solve problems.
  8. Allows students to be creative. By allowing students to explore, experiment and investigate with robotics they can create their own programs, load them onto the robots and watch them perform the programmed tasks before their very eyes.

During our first days back in 2018 Jackie and Kelly are going to talk about the STEM training they undertook in 2017 (continuing in 2018) and take us through some activities using the Sphero Sprk robotics kit.

Leading Change: The Technology in School’s Podcast

If you are interested in educational technology, want to be inspired by ideas from other schools and understand better how to lead the implementation of technology in schools then this podcast is one you might be interested in listening to. This podcast while called Leading Change is not just for school leaders. The podcast discusses and shares what students are doing and how it has impacted on their learning and there is a lot to be gained by the classroom teacher who is interested in developing their use of technology with students. Episodes are approximately 20 minutes long.

A dynamic behind the scenes look at how school leaders across the Asia Pacific region deal with the rapidly developing technological age. Those leading the change take you on a passionate, inspirational and honest journey through the planning, implementation and evaluation of classroom technology. iTunes Description

I believe this Podcast is only available in iTunes. You can access it through the Podcast app by Apple or open iTunes on your computer and select Podcasts and type in Leading Change: The Technology in School’s Podcast into the search bar to download episodes.

 

 

Makers Empire – 3D Printing in South Australian Schools

Makers Empire are an Adelaide company that produce software and programs for schools in the area of 3D printing. During Feb – June of 2017 Makers Empire partnered with DECD to roll out 3D printing programs in 50 primary schools. The program, titled Makers Empire learning by design involved a 20 hour professional learning program which culminated in schools presenting their completed projects at Grange Primary School. To read more about this click here. To see a list of schools involved in the project click here.

Makers Empire does not supply or sell 3D printers but supplies the training, software, programs and lessons for teachers to use 3D printing in the classroom.

See how the Makers Empire software works

 

Here are some examples of how schools have used the Makers Empire software.

To see more videos from schools and how they used Makers Empire click here.

STEM Lead Learning Expo

DECD have opened registration for their STEM Lead Learning Expo which will be held twice – 8th Sept and 3rd October. You can register through the PLINK site. Click here to go to the registration page.

The Expo will allow teachers and leaders to hear about how lead sites:

  • design STEM learning shoulder-to-shoulder with kids
  • develop self-directed questioning techniques
  • leverage learning ‘huddles’ to drive engagement and stretch thinking
  • foster deep learning through nature play
  • enable learners to identify real world problems for rich inquiries
  • foster industry links that build positive STEM dispositions
  • use design thinking to critically and creatively solve real world problems
  • use a community of inquiry approach to inform their STEM learning design processes.

For a quick look at each school presenting at the Expo see the videos below.

I say well done and good job too much!

I take a fair bit of video in my R/1 PE class because it helps me identify student achievement. While I was watching a video of my students doing some ball handling skills, which included dribbling, catching and throwing I noticed that my feedback during that section of the lesson was a combination of phrases like well done and good job. While this type of praise can make students smile and feel good it does not necessarily improve learning.

I’m not discounting general praise statements, for some students it is exactly what they need. I could have however been providing my students much more specific feedback/praise to reinforce the cues I had asked students to focus on when they were catching, throwing and dribbling. For example – watch the ball (don’t look away), when you catch the ball have your arms outstretched not by your side, have soft fingers and big hands, use the tips of your fingers to bounce the ball not your palm and so on. By saying well done I am not acknowledging the specific learning the student has applied, for example, that was a great catch because you held your arms out in front of you. The child is much more likely to hold their arms out in front next time because I have positively reinforced that specific behaviour.

It is not new to me that specific/targeted feedback is more effective than general praise but that has not stopped me from defaulting to a natural response when a child does something well. During a fast paced and busy PE lesson it is easier to revert back to a natural response than it is to identify clearly to the student what they are doing well. It took a video of my teaching to remind me of that.

Have you ever seen or heard yourself teach?
What do you think you would discover if you did?

STEM Teacher Talk 2 with Simon Crook

This video is taken from the Splash ABC website. Listen to Simon Crook answer teacher questions about STEM.

“Simon Crook was a physics teacher for 15 years, in 5 different schools in England and Australia. Subsequently, for over 6 years Simon worked as Senior eLearning Adviser for the Catholic Education Office Sydney having direct responsibility for the integration of technology in the teaching and learning of 17 secondary schools plus an overarching responsibility to 151 schools K-12 across Sydney, Australia. He was also seconded to help design 21st Century Science laboratories. Simon also runs an award winning website Crooked Science.