Duke’s Hindi Students use 3D Printing to Connect with Culture and Language

In this faculty guest post, Kusum Knapczyk, PhD, Lecturer of Hindi Language of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, shares how students in her Hindi 101 and 203 classes use 3D printing for language assignments.

I gathered student feedback with a questionnaire and found that 90% of the students said they would do 3D printing in the future. For students, the most enjoyable part of this activity was seeing and holding the 3D object in their hands, and seeing what their classmates had printed. Some students found it fascinating to learn the process of 3D printing. Keeping all the feedback in mind, I would like to continue doing this activity every year with improvement and enthusiasm.

Kusum Knapczk, PhD

In one of my “world-readiness standards for learning language” workshops I was introduced to the idea of organizing language learning around the 5 C’s; namely, communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. The most challenging of these to apply in classes was “connections” where students “connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations.” (ACTFL World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, pg. 9) 

Kusum Knapczk, PhD

Students Visit the Innovation Co-Lab

I invited Chip Bobbert, Media Engineer with Academic Services and Research Computing, to show students how to print a 3D object. Students went to the Innovation Co-Lab in assigned groups, printed out their objects, and took several pictures of the process. The intention for this group format was for students to help each other and to build friendships beyond the classroom for practicing Hindi.

A Student is removing a 3D object she has printed at the Innovation Co-Lab.

Hindi 203

At the beginning of each semester I gather information from my students about their interests, career goals, and hopes for the Hindi class. This year, most students were interested in computer-related programming. In Hindi 203 we produce a series of podcasts, so I asked students to give me suggestions for podcast topics, and most selected technology. Based on this, I designed an assignment where students printed a 3D object related to Indian culture and Hindi language, and presented the object and the story of that object. The students from Hindi 203 gave a two-minute presentation about cultural, historical, and religious aspects as well. They printed objects such as a cricket bat, lotus, Ashok’s pillar, Goddess Saraswati, rocket-ship, and Kohinoor crown, to name a few.

My Hindi 203 class researched this project and shared their ideas about the object in Hindi using specific vocabulary. For example, one student printed the Lion pillar of Sarnath. He discussed the historical relevance and importance of the pillar and how and why this symbol is used on the Indian currency, courts, and in all government offices and Indian flags.

Interestingly, two students printed a lotus which is a very important part of Indian culture and religion, and also a symbol of a political party in India. Both of them spoke about a different aspect of the lotus as one was more interested in the political party, while the other focused on Hindu gods and goddess who use lotus flowers in various mythological stories.  

Hindi 101

I gave my Hindi 101 students the liberty to choose their own topics. They had to print something related to Indian culture or language and be ready to talk about the object: what is the object, why did they print it, and what is its relation to themselves? My Hindi 101 students presented their objects and talked about why they chose to print them. One of my students said that she printed out her grandfather’s name in Hindi who had passed away recently and plans to make this a gift to her father. Other students chose various objects and themes for their 3D printing such as the Taj Mahal, India’s map, fruits they learned in the class, religious symbols like Om and Ganesha, and the names of their relatives in Hindi.

Ved Prakash (a name)

One of my students printed “raabta” in Hindi letters, which means relation. She printed it for her friend to whom she felt very close and she wanted to express this with her print out. Few students said they are devoted to Ganesha and feel close to him, so they printed a symbol of this deity. 

Impact to Student Learning

In this way I found that my language and culture goals of this assignment were met. Students became familiar with lots of topics and learned from each other. They touched and played with the 3D cultural objects that would not be possible with just paper print. They felt a ‘sense of touch’ when they were giving their presentations while holding these objects in their hands. It is like they were talking about something that was their own, and why not? They have created these objects themselves.

Lessons Learned

Now, I would like to point out some of the shortcomings and successes of this assignment from the student perspective. Even with Duke having 3D printer labs in East, West and Central campuses, most students found it challenging to print because of the unavailability of a free printer and wanted me to give them more time to print their objects. Most students said the printing process was explained well enough so they didn’t need any assistance. Those that needed guidance found the Co-lab assistants helpful. For a future assignment, I would ask for additional explanation about how to make a stand for their objects.

More Information

Contact Learning Innovation or visit the Innovation Co-Lab to learn how you to implement exciting assignments like these in your teaching!