Case Illustrations of 3D Printing in Brazilian Schools and Community

Case Illustrations of 3D Printing in Brazilian Schools and Community

Manuel Marcos Maciel Formiga (University of Brasilia (UnB), Brazil), Marcondes Moreira De Araujo (Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC), Brazil) and Ieda M. Santos (Emirates College for Advanced Education (ECAE), UAE)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7018-9.ch008


This chapter discusses 3D printing technologies in Brazilian schools through analysis of selected cases including one case implemented in the community with implications to schools. A description of the methodology and review of the cases are presented. Analysis is supported by international literature to enrich the review and compare how the field is evolving in the country. Results indicate that students and teachers are predominantly experiencing 3D printing via extra-curricular activities supported by research projects implemented outside the schools. On the other hand, the Lite Maker project made it possible to bring a 3D printer to schools. The community-based project illustrates how 3D printed objects can support visually impaired students. 3D printing technology is moving slowly into the mainstream of Brazilian educational landscape. However, schools will increase access to this technology as printers and its accessories become more affordable. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.
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3D printing technologies are emerging in the Brazilian educational context as well as in other sectors (e.g., medicine), and are gaining attention from educators, researchers, and government. Brazilian researchers (e.g., Basniak & Liziero, 2017; Medeiros, Peres, Bueira, & Borges, 2016) have started realizing the potential of 3D printing technologies to support the development of students’ skills and competencies to better prepare them for their future careers. Medeiros et al. (2016) believe that the demands of contemporary society require a school that inspires creativity, collaboration, initiative, and entrepreneurship among other competencies. While many tools and applications are available, that can be used inside and outside the classroom, and certainly, other tools will emerge, the authors stress that 3D printing technologies have the potential to support these skills to educate citizens of the 21st Century. This is in line with Brazil’s Federal Constitution enacted in 1988 and the national law on education approved in 1996 (LDB Law nº 9.394) that called upon the government (federal, state and municipal level) and society to make continuous efforts to modernize education to improve its quality while recognizing the important role of technology to support such efforts. The Ministry of Education in Brazil reinforced this role (as cited in Couto, 2017, p.36):

…the importance and urgency of promoting the integration of technologies in schools has been established since they are increasingly present in the daily lives of children and young people and their use…must be developed in the school environment, in view of their relevance to the formation of critical citizens who are able to use this competence in the workplace, studies and other contexts. (BRAZIL, 2011, page 53)

Lima and Iaroczinski (2015) added that, when discussing improvements in education, the use of technologies is part of this aim. The idea is to adopt advanced technologies to promote quality education where effective instructional methods and technologies transform the classroom into an attractive environment for teaching and learning. New technology, such as 3D printers and 3D modeling, can help in promoting more student-centered learning approaches and new learning experiences (Maloy, Trust, Kommers, Malinowski, & LaRoche, 2017) where students could be more actively engaged in constructing knowledge.

Considering the potential that 3D printing technologies can offer to schools, this chapter aims to illustrate how these tools are used in Brazilian schools by purposefully selecting cases published in the literature in the last two decades. The chapter also includes a recent 3D printing research project implemented outside the school context but with visible implications for schools and stakeholders. While discussing the cases, international literature is reviewed for comparison and to enrich the discussions. The following sections provide background information followed by a description of the methodology and review of the cases. The subsequent sections discuss recommendations and future research directions. The cases described in this chapter work as a springboard to further the discussions and generate research ideas regarding 3D printing technologies in schools.



Based on the 2016 School Census by the National Institute of Studies and Educational Research Anísio Teixeira (INEP - Portuguese Acronym), Brazil’s education system features 48.8 million enrollments in basic education (aged 5-18) scattered through 186.1 thousand schools and 8.3 million enrollments in higher education, including undergraduate and graduate levels (INEP, 2017). According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA, 2015) organized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), among 70 nations, Brazil ranked poorly in science (63rd position), reading (59th position) and mathematics (66th position). These results led Brazil to a global 65th position. The need for urgent improvements in the learning quality, universalization of access and reduction of operation cost of a complex and diverse education system is, undisputedly, one of the major mounting challenges for the country to reach its full potential.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Fabrication: Also known as rapid prototyping, is a type of manufacturing process where the machine used is controlled by a computer. Digital fabrication includes technologies such as 3D printers and cutting machines.

Visually Impaired: Any individual with loss or severe abnormality of the visual function.

Lite Maker: A mobile cart consisting of four stations where it is taken to schools to support teaching and learning activities. Of the four stations, one is a 3D printing station.

Sketchup Software: A 3D modeling software used to draw a wide range of 3D models.

Fab Lab: A fabrication laboratory that provides a platform or space for collaboration and access to equipment and tools for digital fabrication.

Paraná: State located in the south of Brazil, capital Curitiba, area 199,308 km 2 , population 11,321,000 inhabitants.

Basic Education: Stage of mandatory, continuous education aged 4 to 17, encompassing child education (2 years), fundamental education (9 years), and secondary education (high school – 3 years) totaling 14 years of education. High school cover regular and special education for youth and adults with disabilities and indigenous people.

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