Friday, 6 February 2015


Presentation to RSA Fellows, Monday 9th February 2015,                  Stricklandgate House, Kendal, Cumbria

Suggested Education Component of the Project

We provide online 3D graphic design video tutorials by the artist Sumit Sarkar, pitched at 11-14 year olds. There would be an engaging introduction to the tutorials outlining the benefits of a growth mindset (see below).

We invite entries from the age-group to a competition to design a 3D character. The winners receive a good quality model of their creation, and a second copy of each is created to form a touring exhibition to publicise 3D design and the online tutorials. 

The tutorials and competition would be open to children working individually at home, or through their schools in after-school clubs. It is not envisaged that the tutorials would be used during timetabled school sessions. Teachers would emphatically not be required to learn the software.

The software demonstrated for the tutorials is to be 'Blender'; a powerful, versatile, open source and free product. It works on Windows, Mac or Linux computers (desktops or laptops) and the minimum system requirements are low (it ran without problems on school computers even back in 2008).

Aims and Rationale

  • To foster the development of high level skills in 3D graphic design in children and young people.
  • To encourage the awareness of a growth mindset attitude to learning and teaching.

KS2 (Upper Primary)

3D modelling is not included in the 2014 National Curriculum for this age range. A short project undertaken for CLEO (Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online) at the end of 2010 showed that year 6 pupils were capable of using Blender software, enjoyed the experience and by the end of three short after-school sessions, produced some creative results.

KS3 (Lower Secondary)

3D modelling is included for KS3 (11 - 14 year-olds) in the 2014 National Curriculum (England) for Design and Technology, but a standard school inspection by Ofsted  would be most unlikely to check on compliance and Ofsted has not produced a subject survey on D&T since 2011.  Academies, which now number over half of all Secondary schools, do not have to follow the National Curriculum.

The October 2013 Department of Education report '3D printers in schools: uses in the curriculum Enriching the teaching of STEM and design subjects' found that even in Secondary schools actively committed to the use of 3D printers, the majority only expected pupils to use the simple Google Sketchup software. This is very understandable given the constraints of the timetable, but is a further justification to encourage extra-curricular access to a more powerful product.


Design and Technology entries for GCSE over the past four years have seen a steady decline partly due to the subject not being in the list of those meriting inclusion in the English Baccalaureate (unlike Latin and Classical Greek).


Sales of 3D printers for home use are increasing as their cost decreases and their speed and reliability improve. They are likely to become ubiquitous by the time current Primary School children have left formal education. 
The risk is that in the near future, children and young people's relationship with 3D printers will be that solely of consumers, not of creators. Already there are large online markets of 3D model files that can be bought and used to print out objects in the home. 
Aside from the obvious benefits for the economy in having a cohort of young people who have spent a significant amount of time honing the skills involved in complex 3D modelling, there is far more enjoyment to be had from creating a unique object than from the quick sugar-hit of printing out a clone of the latest Disney character.

Why Blender?

1     Inclusion

Blender is free and therefore children will be able to play with and explore the software in their own time at home if they have access to a desktop computer, or in after-school clubs at no cost.

2     Growth Mindset

Blender is difficult and difficult is good. 
Professor Carol Dweck argues persuasively that too many children are encouraged to develop a 'fixed mindset' i.e. the belief that abilities are innate and unalterable and that, therefore, finding a problem difficult means that one lacks the ability to succeed in that area. 

She has widely studied the positive results of developing a 'growth mindset' i.e. realising that the human brain, particularly the growing brains of children and adolescents, are like a muscle in that exercise increases their capacity, and that therefore engaging with problems makes the mind stronger. This view as been supported by research papers and is successfully being put into practice in some schools, notably in Camden, where Ofsted have recently rated the Primary Schools the best in the country for the second time in three years.

3     As well as being able to export models in the standard file formats for 3-D printing (.stl for conversion to ..s3g),  Blender: 
  • can be used to create professional quality animation movies and special effects 
  • has a powerful, but little known video-editior with layer and node-based compositing capability 
  • its capabilities can be extended using Python, the computer language commonly used to support the new requirements for pupils to learn programing.

Help and Support

For this to work, we could do with the support of the RSA;
  • with publicity - is there a press officer at RSA house?
  • discussing the 'growth mindset' aspect (by email or in person) with Dr Jonathon Rowson who chaired Professor Dweck's presentation at RSA House
  • receive an RSA funding support the project e.g. paying for Sumit Sarkar's time
Two Cumbrian Secondary schools, Kirkby Stephen Grammar and Settlebeck High, Sedbergh, took part in the 2013 DoE 3D Printing project and would be useful contacts.

Matt Burke, Head of School at Kendal College's Arts and Media Centre has offered to host the exhibition of winners' work.

Z-arts, Manchester, have already offered to host a regional exhibition of work produced by the project.


Success Criteria?

Views/downloads of tutorial films? Number (and quality?) of entries?

Links to materials cited in the presentation

Sumit Sarkar using Blender at the Lanternhouse, Ulverston, Cumbria,  2008.
(website made with Flash, therefore can't be viewed on tablets or mobile devices).

Professor Carol Dweck on Fixed and Growth Mindsets, RSA House, 2013

New RSA animation using the core of Dweck's  2013 presentation

Research Paper on Growth Mindset
Jason S. Moser, Hans S. Schroder, Carrie Heeter, Tim P. Moran and Yu-Hao Lee

Growth Mindset at Eleanor Palmer School, Camden

Big Buck Bunny 2008 animation made using Blender

Primary School (Year 6) Blender Work
(website made using Flash, therefore can't be viewed on tablets or mobile devices)

FFT on GCSE uptake

Department of Education: 3D Priters in Schools: uses in the curriculum Enriching the teaching of STEM and design subjects, October 2013

KS3 Art and Design lesson plan featuring CAD furiniture of Gareth Neale