ICT in Education

Blending 3D creativity and business

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Can 3D printing technology be used to help launch a business? IFT Year 1 bachelor degree programme students attending the course on ‘Computer Application – E-Commerce’ tried to answer the question with a hands-on project. During the second semester of academic year 2015/16, they designed various products that could be produced using 3D printers, and marketed them on campus through tailor-made e-commerce websites.

The project led to the setting up of 44 temporary online stores, which operated for 5 days in April. A wide range of products was produced – from mug coasters to Braille readers – with students involved in the design process displaying generally a high degree of creativity. The students said the amount of orders placed was an encouraging sign, with the final proceeds of the initiative donated to a local charity, Caritas Macau.

One of the most popular items produced by the students was a Macao-themed jewellery organiser. It was thought up by 5 students from the Bachelor Degree Programme in Tourism Retail and Marketing Management.

Each group participating in the course had to think creatively in order to come up with the concept and design for the new product: each group was allowed to choose the software tools it felt was needed to complete the project.

Some students began the process using freehand sketches. Drafts were then modelled digitally using the free software Autodesk 123D Design. The easy-to-learn 3D modelling tool can be used to create sophisticated models.

Once the models were ready, they were ‘printed’ using 3D printers. For that, students made use of the 2 MakerBot Replicator 3D printers available at IFT.

Right tools

The 3D printing was just part of the overall process: students then needed to promote their products online. They did so by using web content management systems. The latter are computer applications that support the creation and modification of digital content via a user-friendly interface, and which emphasise content and reduce the amount of programming work needed.

Students showcased their web management skills with the assistance of different software programs. Some groups made use of open-source platforms – such as the WooCommerce plug-in on the WordPress software platform; other undergraduates resorted to subscription-based digital services, including Ecwid’s Wix shopping cart product. The aim was to give students experience in choosing an appropriate e-commerce tool for their respective project.

Through this initiative, Year 1 students were able to acquire additional computer-related skills and express their creativity. Meanwhile, the use at IFT of 3D printing is encouraging IFT undergraduates from earlier intakes to make a return to the computer lab, in order to learn more about this new technology. It has been available at the Institute since the academic year 2015/16.

IFT plans to continue bringing the latest computer-related technologies to students. The goal is to allow the students to become familiar with these technologies and to experiment with them, increasing their skills prior to entering the labour force.

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