Manufacturing a Healthy Future, a European-wide initiative to help promote sustainability and STEM skills in primary schools

Cork, March 11th, 2024 - Two primary schools in Cork have been named the winners of a national design competition that used 3D printing to respond to sustainability challenges within their schools.

The competition is part of a European programme that gives teachers access to the latest information and technology and sparks interest in STEM in the classroom. 

Ballinacarriga National School and Drinagh National School, situated near Dunmanway in West Cork, have been named the winners of ‘Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ 2023 – a 3D printing design challenge. The competition is coordinated by I-Form, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing; and Stryker, a leading global medical technology company. The project, supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology - Manufacturing, challenged young pupils to give a ‘second life’ or a ‘life extension’ to something that might otherwise be thrown away, by improving it with 3D printed parts.

I-Form, headquartered at University College Dublin, and Stryker, which has manufacturing operations in Cork and Limerick, have been working with primary school teachers since 2021 to empower them with the skills to bring manufacturing technology into the classroom. 

‘Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ is a European project funded by EIT Manufacturing. In 2023, the programme was also rolled out in schools across Europe, including France, Estonia, Lithuania and Hungary. The project partners are Stryker and I-Form at University College Dublin in Ireland, Arts et Metier Institute of Technology in France, University of Tartu in Estonia, LINPRA in Lithuania, and PBN in Hungary.

Over three years of the project, highlights to date include:

  • The European-funded project has trained 212 teachers across five countries on designing
  • and printing using a 3D printer. 
  • 4,500 primary school children in five countries have engaged with the project. 
  • In Ireland, 67 teachers and 1,300 pupils have participated in the programme.

Sixth Class students from Ballinacarriga National School designed a solution to extend the life of the chairs in their classroom; while fourth Class students from Drinagh National School brought old puzzle games back to life by 3D printing the missing pieces. Both schools were awarded €500 in education supplies for their school. They have also won the opportunity to visit the Stryker manufacturing facility in Cork, where they will witness firsthand the innovative work being done in additive manufacturing.

Second place prizes were also awarded to Murhur National School in Co. Kerry and Scoil Mhuire Mooncoin in Co. Kilkenny.  

3D printing (known in the industry as additive manufacturing) is a key enabling technology of Industry 4.0 – a term used to signify the new era of industrial production, encompassing advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. ‘Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ is an innovative programme that recognises that teachers are key influencers of the next generation. It provides them access to information and technology in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and manufacturing. 

Barry O’Driscoll, sixth Class teacher at Ballinacarriga, said: “’Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ is a great initiative that I would recommend to all teachers. 3D printing allows students to use their imaginations and fosters creativity in a fun way. The programme also inspires children to consider pursuing careers in STEM in the future.”

Melissa Swanton, fourth Class teacher at Drinagh, said: "The students were so excited to be named a winner in the ‘Manufacturing a Healthy Future’ competition. 3D printing incorporates many key skills for students, such as teamwork, design, maths and art. The competition also educates the children around important themes of sustainability. It was very rewarding to see the pupils working together and developing problem-solving skills."

“We were delighted to see so many young people involved in this innovative EIT-Manufacturing programme. As a Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, an integral part of our public engagement strategy is to inspire students and showcase the exciting and innovative career opportunities in advanced manufacturing, and this project allows us to do that. As the manufacturing sector evolves, we hope to inspire young people to prepare now for the jobs of the future,” said Professor Denis Dowling, Director of I-Form.

Mag O’Keefe, Vice President of Global Additive Technologies: “Stryker's participation in the Manufacturing a Healthy Future campaign showcases our commitment to developing innovative technologies that tackle real-world problems, encourage sustainability, and support local schools and communities. We want to inspire young minds to be imaginative and discover the potential of 3D printing. Stryker is proud to support initiatives that lay the foundation for a more sustainable and innovative future.”