There are many important things to educate our kids on but new technologies is definitely one of them. To prepare them for a new future it is essential that they get in touch with new upcoming technologies. I can still remember that my high school had MSX computers where we learned Logo and did our typing lessons. 3D printing is a new upcoming technology and it needs its place in schools.
3D printers are not exactly new and a lot of universities already got a 3D printer. But from what I hear they are often underused due to staffing or cost problems. But more importantly they are not an integral part of any curriculum yet. There are schools who get it like Saddleback college in California. They teach a Rapid Prototyping class. Here is video about them:
There are actually two needs to address for 3D printing. The first is technology itself, the capabilities and operation of the machines. Second is the creation of content using 3D design. Kids need to learn to 3D design.
For high schools it is important to familiarize their students with 3D printing. At some point these machines will enter their homes and they better be ready to use them. The students also have to learn about the capabilities and learn how to use them. Awareness is very important. Next to that they should learn to create and design 3D models. It is a skill which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Design schools should start paying attention now. 3D printing is going to have a major impact on product design and manufacturing of products. Students have to start thinking about their role as designers and how they can adapt to this change. It is a major paradigm shift for designers and we have to prepare the next generation of designers to cope with that.
Universities need to get off their feet and start using 3D printing more. There are many applications for 3D printers in universities; from making prototypes to test setups. But they also should invest more in researching this technology and improving current technologies. The technology is still immature in many respects and there are many research opportunities from 3D printing software, new 3D design user interface concepts to 3D printing technology itself. There are only a handful of universities who put in significant resources in 3D printing.
The adoption of new technology start with young people and education is one of their resources to learn. We have a great opportunity here and we should act on it.