Science of innovation: 3D printing

3D Printed Cells Bowl - Math Art by @DizingofImagine! Invent! Improve! Inspire! The “Science of…” series is back with a new twist—innovation. The “Science of Innovation” series highlights innovative technologies patented by some of the leading scientists and engineers in their fields. The United States Patent & Trademark Office joins the team of NSTA, NBC Learn, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to bring you this STEM video series with connected lesson plans

Spurred by exciting ideas that have become patented technologies, students can begin to think about innovation as a process in which they can participate. Science of Innovation videos focus on the link among science knowledge, math understanding, and engineering design to help your students see how science is put to work developing innovative technologies. Then NSTA-developed lesson plans complete the packages. The series is available cost-free on,, and

NSTA will also post portions of each package in this blog over the next weeks, under the NSF Videos and Lessons category, and we hope you will try them out in the classroom. If you do, please leave comments below each posting about how well the information worked in real-world classrooms. And if you had to make significant changes to a lesson, we’d love to see what you did differently, as well as why you made the changes. Leave a comment, and we’ll get in touch with you with submission information.

–Judy Elgin Jensen

Image of 3D printed bowl courtesy of Dizingof.


SOI: 3D Printing highlights Michael Cima, Ph.D. (Chemical Engineering), and Emanuel Sachs, Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering), professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and their pioneering methods of 3D printing, in which three-dimensional models and manufactured products are created by a computerized “additive” process.

Lesson plans

Two versions of the lesson plans help students build background and develop questions they can explore regarding the actions of objects in fluids. Both include strategies to support students in their own quest for answers and strategies for a more focused approach that helps all students participate in hands-on inquiry.

SOI: 3D Printing, A Science Perspective  models how students might make analogies between the 3D printing process and topographic maps and models.

SOI: 3D Printing, An Engineering Perspective models how students might investigate the comparison of additive and subtractive manufacturing processes.

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