3D Printing and STEAM in Youth Settings (ENG)

This video tells the story of Kate’s journey as a STEAM youth work practitioner specialising in 3D Design and Printing with early school leavers who participate in YMCA Ireland's Support, Training and Enterprise Programme (STEP).




YMCA Ireland

Target group

Young people aged between 17-25 who may have left school early, been long term unemployed or have been referred by other agencies.


The STEP programme delivers a one year long training programme. It aims to build participants confidence skills and experience in order to progress to further education training and employment. STEAM technologies were introduced as a tool to enhance the learning.

Using STEAM and 3D printing activities to engage young people to become digital creators rather than consumers.


Kate uses a range of emerging technologies to inspire and enhance their learning including augmented reality and Makey Makey invention kits with Scratch programming.

Employers are now seeking more soft skills and adaptability. Using non formal learning as a tool in youth work helps participants attain their potential by learning in a social and fun environment, using practical skills and encouraging collaboration.

The 3D printing and STEAM activities were developed after initial contact with a medical device manufacturer who loaned us their 3D printer and provided educational workshops on the same.


A lot of emphasis was put on collaborative learning – each group member encouraged to contribute, help others, look at group dynamics and how to improve them. To this end Chromebooks were introduced and round tables so that participants could easily share ideas and further develop their social skills. 

Participants were given a very basic knowledge of the Tinker cad software and were invited to try and design 3D objects. They did so and then attempted to print them; what was evident was the problems with design due to lack of scaffolding supports, size of objects and time taken to print objects. The participants started to look further at the design and reflected in small groups before reflecting back to the group as a whole and sharing what they had observed before having another go.

It was found that participants can look on design flaws as a failure and so had to be encouraged to keep trying – to this end they were advised to try very simple shapes so they could believe they could be successful and they were assisted in the process so they felt supported.



Ultimaker 3


The young people really enjoy the activities “I came here because my mum told me to – but I love it”

They respond well to the fact that no one ever tells them they are wrong but asks them instead to reflect on what could be done to improve their creation.

Trainees were given full access to the printer thus encouraging ownership and allowing them to create whatever they wanted  – this included parts for an xbox, fridge magnets, personalised key rings.


Trainees reflect on their activities in a weekly team meeting and feedback to staff and their peers.


Encouraged more collaboration.

Used across may modules eg a STEAM day was run and a local retirement group and other young people attended. This was great to showcase their skills and was also used as a customer service and team building exercise.