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Engaging Young Learners in CAD and 3D Printing

During 2015 and 2016, WMG and the School of Engineering ran a project which aimed to share the University’s expertise in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and 3D Printing with local young people aged 11-14 to help them and their teachers, learn about design software and how to use it effectively for 3D Printing.

This project built on the work of the University of Warwick project Engaging Young People with Assistive Technologies, which worked with young people with disability to explore how CAD and 3D printing could help them.

The project work has continued as part of the University's STEM outreach programme with many CAD and 3D printing workshops for school pupils taking place each year both at the university and in schools.

During the project the school pupils learned to use a free download CAD software called Autodesk 123D Design. A range of tutorials was developed for this purpose, using an approach of learning CAD by actually designing and 3D printing a range of products of increasing complexity to gradually build skills in an engaging context. These tutorials have been freely available on this website and have been extremely popular.

In April 2017, Autodesk withdrew 123D Design. Our 123D tutorials are still online here for those who already have the software. However, Autodesk Fusion 360, a much more powerful professional CAD package, can be downloaded free of charge by students, educators and start-ups/enthusiasts. For younger pupils, Autodesk Tinkercad is ideal and is available free to use in a web browser (Chrome or Edge work best).

WMG Outreach now has a range of beginner tutorials for Fusion 360 at and more tutorials will be added over time. For those who have previously used the 123D Design tutorials, you will see that a number of the Fusion tutorials are for the same products, to help you compare the 123D method to the Fusion method. More Teacher Notes and ideas for use of Fusion 360 will be added in due course, particular to help with the new UK Design & Technology school curriculum/coursework.


3D Printing is changing approaches to design and manufacturing in many industries. It also has the potential to engage young people in exciting and creative design work from an early age, using one of the many free downloadable 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software packages to produce their own designs which can then be 3D printed.

The aim is to encourage young people to develop their interest in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Maths). 3D design and printing technologies are becoming increasingly available and affordable but the ability to use them effectively may not be clear, particularly for those young people without ready access to computers, the internet or mentors with the knowledge and skills to unlock the exciting opportunities offered in these cutting edge areas of STEM.

This project builds on the knowledge and experience gained during the Hereward College Project (Engaging Young People with Assistive Technologies) which showed that students enjoyed learning to use 3D CAD and developed a range of skills relevant to employability.


This project aims to achieve:

  • A developed skill set in the students taking part in the project and awareness within each individual student of their own growth and development of transferrable skills.
  • The students feeling empowered to create their own designs for 3D Printing rather than simply using someone else’s creation.
  • Students from all backgrounds having a greater interest in STEM subjects and design resulting in increased likelihood to choose to study these subjects at GCSE. An increased awareness amongst the parents/carers of these students about STEM subjects and skills.
  • A tested set of workshop resources which can then be used in a small number of schools with a suggested 'train the trainer' scheme of growth.
  • Recognition in the wider education community that a core value in having 3D Printers in schools is the range of transferable skills developed by engaging in the 3D CAD design process when using 3D Printers.
  • Current undergraduate volunteers taking on the role of student tutors in this project will benefit from the opportunity to further develop their skills and inspire younger students.

The resources developed and piloted during the project are now available to teachers for future use - follow this link. This project would provide a model for engagement with all pupils including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to help embed 3D CAD and 3D Printing in schools, and in doing so may help to inspire future cohorts of young people in STEM subjects and develop key STEM related skills.



Girls with Printer

For further information contact:

Diane Burton

Margaret Low

Mike Jennings