How far should FRC teams take pedagogy

is this really what you want in a pedagogical environment? paying extra money so that the students learn less seems a loss to me.

There are all kinds of COTS things this comment could apply to (drivetrains, gearboxes, motors, etc). It is all a spectrum of how much time / money is saved and what the value / student interest in learning that skill is.

I think there are plenty of teams that don’t want to learn to be 3D print experts and could benefit from the simplicity. Prior to this offering I would have said the cost was “WAYYYYYY” too much but if the printer is free it starts to become more reasonable.

I still don’t think the value proposition for using it makes sense if you can get thousands for it.

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Yes, but notably, none of these things are the Stratasys printer that we’re talking about. I know arguing against strawmen is fun, but it’s not productive.

“But what about student learning” is a cliche cold take, not a stunning insight.

Clearly students should be writing their own roborio libraries for Our Pedelogical Environment.

Edit: Being able to print without consumer grade 3dp limitations is what powder bed SLS and other technologies actually achieve. Those are what I use professionally, not single nozzle FDM setups.


So any argument that directly responds to what you said is a strawman? You said:

There are many cases where paying extra money in a pedagogical environment makes sense as it doesn’t mean the students learn less it means the students learn different (often more important) things. My things were examples of why this is true not strawmen.

I clearly explained how I agree that the value proposition for this makes sense is in doubt and on a team by team basis.


When you treat it as an argument that can be evaluated outside of context, sure. Look at the prices involved, and the skills that are being papered over, in this particular case. Do you think this is worthwhile?


Then argue the facts and not about student learning?

Student learning is one of the facts. Learning how to operate an ordinary 3d printer does not take a prohibitive amount of time, and is a useful engineering skill. Do you not weight that in your utility calculus at all, or?

You can’t make an inflamatory statement like above and then when anyone disagrees with it say that they aren’t considering the students at all. I believe everyone here cares about student learning. We may however disagree about the ease of becoming an expert in 3D printing and how much student learning that provides.


Absolutely. The “skill” of catering to hobby grade printing is not a portable professional skill. Design for manufacturing needs to have limits in service of the application, ie choose to print in SLS at Fathom before shoehorning a design onto a hobby grade machine.

Roberts comments were already couched in understanding of the high cost of the machine, and dives into what that delivered for them as a print center administrator. Being able to Just Print instead of sending users back to the drawing board is definitely one of those values.


“Do you really want a machine with huge operating costs for the benefit of not having to teach your students a few simple engineering skills” is not inflammatory - it’s a pertinent question that anyone considering obtaining one of these things should be prepared to answer.

Responding to this with a general dismissal in principle of the notion that student learning is a relevant factor does make me question whether you’re taking it into account.

It’s far more likely that a professional engineer who deals with 3D printing on a regular basis is going to be using a higher end commercial printer (like, say, a Stratasys) than an “ordinary” consumer-grade hobby printer.


Operating an Ender3 and shoehorning your designs into it’s operating envelope is not “a few simple skills” and soaks up desperately valuable engineering hours that could go into the final product instead of babysitting a finicky production process.

I recently tried to do a professional project using a hobby printer For The Cost Savings, went back and did the math (with my time priced in, tbf) and I could have printed about the same number of prototypes for fewer dollars by going with professional SLS instead.
(And I haven’t made back my investment on the printer either :sweat_smile:)


Do you think a professional engineer will make better or worse prints, having first worked with simpler devices that hide less of the problem-space complexity from them?

I don’t think learning how to apply a gluestick to a print bed or fussing over nozzle clogs are particularly important skillsets to develop in order to become a better engineer, no.


neither of these have anything to do with the thing I originally quoted…

Thread split from First CHOICE 3D Printer


Can you provide a real world example of the problem-space complexity to which you refer? This sounds like a thing I’d say in an interview when I wanted to sound smart but say nothing.

I’ll try to elaborate on my experience with hobby grade experience and with professional printers in a corporate environment.

Things that are useful you can learn on the fancy FC machine:

  • Understanding Anisotropic properties of prints and orienting prints for strength on the correct axis
  • How to design parts for 3d printing
  • Different properties of various materials in printing (I didn’t actually look up anything about this printer, I assume is does multiple materials, doesn’t really matter for this argument anyway)
  • Designing to conserve expensive support material
  • Designing to minimize expensive disposable bed use
  • When to use 3d printing vs other manufacturing techniques
  • Understanding tolerances of printed parts / manufacturing in general

Things that aren’t useful for future engineering knowledge (in my work experience)

  • Machine specific intricacy knowledge (generally you’re time is not spent on this and the company will have someone dedicated to these types of tasks or call the supplier)
  • Any time spent trying to make the printer print. (the only thing you learn here is patience, while useful, it’s not a good use of time during a robot season)
  • Failed prints.

I generally agree with the ‘it’s just different learning’ argument. Sure you won’t learn how to repair hobby level printers, but you can learn that from YouTube pretty easily - I won’t deny there is some value in that, but you’ll be able to iterate faster and learn more succeeding with 3d printed designs. More time for CAD, more time for testing. It’s a lot harder to learn these on YouTube.


Sure; it was in the original post I responded to. You even listed it below, in your list of reasons you would want the fancy machine:

The original post was suggesting that not doing this was a reason to want the machine. I’m not sure I agree.

Two parts to this answer.

First - I dispute we are indeed a pedagogical environment. At the risk of rehashing a debate we’ve had many times - FIRST is about inspiration not education.

Second - I’d assert that teaching students the value in “good enough” is a valuable lesson in optimization and costs. These are important lessons that really can only be taught through the sort of hands on engagement that FIRST programs (or other similar programs) excel at.