Moving from STEM to STEAM: The Effects of Informal STEM Learning on Students' Creativity and Problem Solving Skills with 3D Printing Conference Paper uri icon


  • 2017 IEEE. Modeling with 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software to design and print 3D products can improve students' spatial visualization skills, creativity, and problem solving skills. 3D CAD software has been used as a teaching tool in secondary school classrooms since the early 2000s, but it becoming more ubiquitous due to increased affordability of an innovative concept: 3D printing. Yet research about the effect of 3D design and printing on students' academic achievement, problem solving skills, and creativity has been limited. For the present study, the effects of applying 3D CAD software and 3D printing were observed on students' perceptions of their need for creativity when solving problems that could be encountered across STEM careers. Participants (N = 95) were high school students who attended a two-week long STEM summer camp at a university located in central Texas in 2016. Results indicated that the students who participated in the 3D CAD and printing improved their perceptions about creativity and problem solving skills required for STEM disciplines (p <.01). The effect for the study was impressive with Cohen's d effect sizes for students' perceptions about creativity and problem solving skills in STEM disciplines at d = 0.61 and d = 0.66, respectively. Students who participated in the informal STEM learning and engaged with 3D project-based learning indicated that creativity was important for STEM fields and for engineering in particular. They also indicated that problem solving skills were essential for being successful in a STEM career. Teachers who desire to increase their students' creativity along with their STEM competencies should integrate classroom activities that promote creativity and problem solving while being actively engaged in the activity.

name of conference

  • 2017 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Bicer, A., Nite, S. B., Capraro, R. M., Barroso, L. R., Capraro, M. M., & Lee, Y.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Bicer, Ali||Nite, Sandra B||Capraro, Robert M||Barroso, Luciana R||Capraro, Mary M||Lee, Yujin

publication date

  • January 2017