Cork and Kilkenny schools win national design challenge using 3D printing

Primary schools in Cork and Kilkenny have been named the winners of a national design competition that used 3D printing to respond to sustainability challenges within their schools. (WATCH THE WINNING ENTRIES BELOW)

Togher National School in Dunmanway, West Cork and St. Colman’s National School in Clara, Kilkenny were named the winners of ‘Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ – a 3D printing design challenge. The competition was initiated by I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, and Stryker, a leading global medical technology company, along with European partners in France and Estonia. The project, supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Manufacturing, challenged young pupils to fix or improve something in their own classroom or school, using 3D printing as a creative design tool. 

I-Form, headquartered at University College Dublin, and Stryker, which has manufacturing operations in Cork and Limerick, have been working with primary school teachers throughout 2022 and 2021 to empower them with the skills to bring manufacturing technology into the classroom. The three-year programme is also running in schools in France and Estonia and will run throughout 2023.

Over two years of the project, highlights to date include:

  • European-funded project has trained 116 teachers across three countries on how to design and print using a 3D printer.
  • 3,000 primary school children in three countries have taken part in a design challenge.
  • In Ireland, 47 teachers and 1,000 pupils have taken part in the programme.

The Senior Room in Togher National School in Cork (pictured) designed a handy solution to key storage in the classroom, with their ‘Key holders’ project; while ‘The Elves’ in 2nd Class in St Colman’s, Kilkenny, focused on bringing old board games back to life by replacing missing pieces. Both schools were awarded a €1,000 technology package for their school, along with gift vouchers for the children and a tour of the Stryker facility in Cork.

Second place prizes were also awarded to Scoil Dean Cussen in Limerick and Ballinagree National School in Cork.  

3D printing (known in industry as additive manufacturing) is a key enabling technology of Industry 4.0 – a term used to signify the new era of industrial production, encompassing advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and the Internet of Things. ‘Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ is an innovative programme that recognises that teachers are key influencers of the next generation but sometimes lack access to information and technology around the newest areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and manufacturing.

Principal of Togher National School, Helen O’Connell, said: “’Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ is a fantastic project and I would recommend it to all teachers. 3D printing provides children with the ability to design and create their own unique objects - this helps foster their creativity and imagination in a fun way. 3D printing also exposes children to STEM (Science,  Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and can inspire them to pursue careers in those areas in the future.”

Maggie Curran, 2nd Class Teacher at St. Colman’s National School, said: "We were thrilled to be named a winner in ‘Manufacturing a Healthy Future.’ This project incorporated many key skills for students, e.g. co-operative learning, design, maths and art. The tasks that the pupils were set were meaningful and reinforced the sustainability aspect of our environmental education programme. As a teacher, it was very rewarding to see the pupils working collaboratively and developing their problem-solving skills."

Dr. Triona Kennedy, Senior Research Manager, Stryker, said: “At Stryker, our mission is to make healthcare better and that is only possible through people. In partnership with I-Form at University College Dublin, we are connecting with young people who are the future in healthcare. Our team of engineers, scientists and designers at Stryker have been so impressed with each entry to the design challenge from primary schools. The future is in great hands.”

Prof. Denis Dowling, Director, I-Form, said: “We were delighted to see so many young people involved in this innovative EIT Manufacturing programme. An imaginative, creative approach to problem-solving is a key skill highly sought by industry and will be a critical factor in enhancing Europe’s manufacturing competitiveness in the decades ahead. As the manufacturing sector evolves, we hope to inspire young people to prepare now for the jobs of the future, and also to provide key support to teachers, who are crucial influencers of students.”