Youngsters, gaming, ‘STEM’ and a 3D printer…

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The Badger’s long believed that a solid education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) arms you well for whatever you want to do in life, which, after all, often takes you in directions you never envisage. With a solid foundation in STEM subjects, you will be armed well for anything that unfold. Having a good STEM grounding doesn’t limit your horizons, it expands them! Brian May , guitarist in Queen, and Rowan Atkinson, ‘Mr Bean’, illustrate the point perfectly. The former studied Physics and Mathematics and has a PhD in Astrophysics, and the latter studied Electrical Engineering. A good STEM grounding never stops you from being an artist, a musician, an entrepreneur or businessperson, or a creative type!

So, what’s this got to do with 3D printing? Well, the Badger recently asked a group of youngsters between the ages of 11 and 16 what they did with their spare time. Unsurprisingly, playing games on their phones or games consoles dominated the response. It made the Badger wonder if introducing them to some alternative tech could reduce the dominance of gaming and yet be as much fun while having a stealthy ‘STEM’ educational element. The Badger’s not anti-gaming, just pro broadening the education of digital-native youngsters whenever possible, but feels that youngsters would benefit from something else in their digital mix. That something is a 3D printer!

The Badger has recently embraced 3D printing in the home environment. Indeed, the picture above is of a bespoke, 10cm tall, model produced on the Badger’s own 3D printer. The printer cost less than £250. There’s a wide range of available printers suitable for youngsters, as well as software (much of it cheap or free), and the Thingiverse provides a great source of customizable 3-D models to start with. It’s a great feeling to design your own thing, build a 3-D model of it, and watch it being manufactured in front of your eyes. It’s creative, fun, and inherently engages you with STEM by stealth in the home environment.

The impact of 3D printing on major industries and the potential of the technology as a teaching resource have long been recognised. The Badger thinks that youngsters can learn lots from having this fun technology at home to use in their spare time. For less than the price of the leading games consoles you should think about getting a 3D printer that will be covertly ‘STEM educational’ and yet provide hours of fun as a creative alternative to gaming. What’s not to like! A youngster could create ‘the next best thing’ using a 3D printer in their bedroom. It could diversify their entertainment and make them the next super-successful ‘tech’ business mogul. Hmm. Let’s not get too carried away for the moment, but you never know…

What’s more important….Fortnite, or an education?

The Badger’s never played Fortnite and has never really embraced gaming as a natural pastime, so the recent Fortnite World Championships – apparently one of the top 10 ‘eSport’ events of 2019 – have been an education!

Apart from playing an occasional motor racing game on X-Box with younger family members when pestered to do so, the Badger’s gaming experience centres on Space Invaders, Asteroids, Flight Simulator, and Pac-Man from decades ago. Today games are much more sophisticated, addictive money-making machines and gaming is big business. In 2018, for example, consumers apparently spent $43 billion in the USA alone. It’s also yet another reminder of how hardware and software has rapidly developed and changed personal entertainment.

Video and computer gaming have never been part of the Badger’s lifestyle, but it clearly is for many millennials and post-millennials. That’s fine…after all, every generation is different! However, as parents we should always worry if our offspring are seduced into spending many, many hours a day gaming. Responsible parents, of course, always try to inject balance and common sense, even when rebellious offspring may not be receptive. It’s important to persevere now that gaming has morphed into ‘eSport’ with life-changing amounts of prize money winnable by youngsters whose adult life experience is limited.

In the Fortnite World Championships a 16-year old from Pennsylvania won $3m and a 15-year old Brit has pocketed close to £1m. Yesterday morning the Badger listened to a radio interview with the 15-year old and his mother with a mixture of horror and pride. Horror that the youngster spends up to 10 hours a day playing the game, and pride that his mother has fought hard to make sure he concentrates on schoolwork and getting a good education. Even though her son has won a lot of money, his mother didn’t sound as if she’d be backing off from insisting her son concentrates on his education. Good on her!

The interview also triggered a question from the Badger’s wife! The one in the title of this blog item. The Badger’s answer? Education, obviously. Why, she asked, given the speed with which the world and society is changing and you’re a dinosaur? That last bit hurt! The Badger’s answer was this. Because education arms people with the widest set of interests, awareness, skills and tools to help survive the broad rigours of real life in a modern society, and Fortnite doesn’t. With education your life can go in many different directions, as the Badger has found. Without it comes vulnerability, especially in such a fast-changing world.

The Badger’s wife just smiled. She suggested that since the Badger was already educated, he should invent an eSport for ‘the dinosaur generation’! Now there’s a thought…didn’t see that coming.