[Educator Spotlight] 3D Printing as a Necessity in Education with Peter Wachtel

“In my classes we get to be ourselves, think, explore, design, build and create things that never existed before. I ask students to follow their desires and imagination, and make it a part of their life – then the skills, experience and wisdom will come.”

The Role of 3D Printing

We use 3D printing every day to help design and solve problems – Makerbot has become a great partner in my students’ education, by offering 3D printers that are fast and easy to use. At an early age, Students start to get an idea of how the world really works, and 3D printing is going to help every kid out there no matter who or what career paths they go into – whether that’s a lawyer or a designer or a doctor or anything they want. They understand the processes and complexities that go into making a product, how STEAM integrates through every step of the process, and how it makes sense in society.

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Teach Real-World Skills

Our Product Innovation & Design Pathway is a combination of Manufacturing & Product Development, Arts, Building Trades & Construction, and is fully integrated across STEAM subjects. By creating “real world” projects with local businesses we’ve given students a better understanding of how the world works, this has led to our curriculum being adopted by several community and state colleges and 40 other high schools across the country.

I take students’ creativity and then teach them the necessary skills. Students learn how to work, design, and collaborate with real skills. So when the students are done with my class, not only can they think creatively and critically. They learn collaboration and teamwork, how 3D printers and three-dimensional spaces work — and most importantly how their ideas can be carried out.

Whatever is around our students is worthy of exploration. Look around them, their classrooms, their smartphone, their router, their lights or lamps, their tables, their mouse. Everything was designed by an industrial designer or product designer, everything went through the design thinking process in some sort of way. Having 3D printing accessible during this process is pivotal because you can then get ideas out faster, work them out, and develop them into products.

My Students’ Outcomes:

Designed “Real World” Projects for: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, Mattel, Santa Barbara Zoo, TreeHouse Masters, KidSTREAM & Harbor Freight Tools. (and more to come!)

➜ Field trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo, interviewed with Park Staff & Researched, Online, using the existing animal footprint- Students Designed & developed a better environment for the animals and viewing experience for park guests- water, shelter, food, habitat, and quality of life.

Students met with the Design staff of Harbor Freight and researched, designed, developed, and presented new tools for Harbor Freight. We later went on to win the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence & $50,000!


Taking the Entrepreneurial Mindset Back to the Classroom

It’s no secret why I connect my classes with real industry partners – it’s so that all my students can learn how to manufacture and develop a product and gain real-world experience, real 3D printing, a real understanding of the product development process, and connect with companies that make the products that they’re working on. I was able to take my career in designing and my experience in teaching and incorporate them together to provide students an early design experience that is important to growing skills crucial to any working environment.

My students operate a business creating custom-made items. I asked my students to reach out to the community and the world and ask if they can make stuff for them if there was a need or problem they could solve. This process of creating products and solutions for others, it builds creativity. Now with 3D printing, especially with MakerBot, if you can think it, you can design and build it. It combines science, technology, engineering, math as well as real-world skills and mimics work-based learning. In 4 Years they have made over 100 custom products and raised over $20,000 to help support our program!


➜ Build student Creativity, Real-World Skills, and open up opportunities for Collaboration and Teamwork.
➜ Deeper involvement in the design thinking process, students get more motivated and engaged
➜ Mimic Work-Based Learning since students have direct interaction with what they’re learning.
➜ Increased Employment Opportunities & Workforce preparation
➜ 3D Printing becomes an everyday tool – if you think it, you can print it!

Closing Thoughts

This is my 4th Year at Adolfo Camarillo High School Teaching Product Innovation & Design and Architecture and my approach of emphasizing Creativity draws students from every grade (9-12), boys and girls and every different kind of academic level from a 1.0 to a 4.7 GPA valedictorian!

The ability to bring their ideas to life gives students a well-rounded education. Students will all be able to think more creatively and analytically to do better in class. This 3D Printing education will last a lifetime – STEAM everything!

About Peter Wachtel

I began my teaching after earning a master’s degree from Pratt Institute. A Dean at Pratt later agreed to let me teach a course in toy design. From there, I went on to teach at Parsons School of Design, Otis School of Art & Design, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology while also working as a designer and inventor for Mattel, Six Flags, Universal Studios, and other companies.

Peter Watchtel

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