How 3DBear AR Helps Prepare Students for 21st Century

How 3DBear AR Helps Prepare Students for 21st Century

In today’s world of education, there have been a plethora of discussions about 21st Century Skills, and how important it is to have our students equipped with them. In Finland, these skills are called Transversal Competencies, which particularly focus on the competences that cross the boundaries of individual subjects and aim to link different fields of knowledge and skills. But no matter it’s 21st Century Skills or Transversal Competencies, they can be all boiled down to a group of words known as “4C Basic Skills”, i.e. creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

21st Century Competencies/Transversal Competencies

21st Century Competencies/Transversal Competencies

4C Basic Skills

4C Basic Skills

At 3DBear, we believe that Augmented Reality and 3D-printing are beneficial in helping students develop these essential new basics. Here are how 3DBear AR makes them happen:


3DBear AR empowers student-centered learning process. Students are the owners of their learning, they are free to decide how they would like to complete the learning tasks. All of our lesson plans provide open-ended design challenges, and there are multiple ways to approach to these challenges. During the class, students are encouraged to brainstorm as many ideas as they can before choosing one as their ultimate solution.

Critical thinking

The learning content of 3DBear AR lessons are interdisciplinary, which demand students to look at problems from different angles. In order to make smart decisions, students need to make connections to multiple subjects and ideas. For example, the Redesign Your School lesson presents students with a real-world scenario and ask them to identify possible issues or problems in their surroundings. By posing students as problem explorers, we are actually encouraging them to think critically while identifying needs and opportunities from different perspectives.


3DBear AR allows users to communicate themselves in a visual way, students can share their thoughts, ideas, solutions and creations using Augmented Reality. We are especially proud of the fact that the app is such a powerful tool for students who are not good at expressing themselves verbally. In the majority of our lesson plans, we have included various activities that require students to show their understanding of a concept or idea using AR, then engage them into discussions to further enhance the learning process.


3DBear AR aims at creating a shared classroom. All of the class activities invite students to work together in achieving shared goals. When students work in teams, they learn to collaborate, negotiate, and resolve conflicts. These skills support their social and emotional development and prepare them for the success in future workplace and life in general.

A classroom in the U.S. where the students are using 3DBear AR to restore a virtual Machu Picchu.

A classroom in the U.S. where the students are using 3DBear AR to restore a virtual Machu Picchu.

In addition to the “4C Basic Skills”, 3DBear AR is a good medium in assisting students developing ICT competence. Through the different lessons, students will get familiar with the emerging technologies like AR and 3D-printing; also the use of digital devices creates many opportunities for students to make their own thoughts and ideas visible in unique ways, thus developing their thinking and learning-to-learn skills.

From a bigger picture, it’s not about math, science or languages, 3DBear cares more about our students grow as a human being, cultivate their necessary skills for building a sustainable future.


Co-written by Maria Muuri and Junyi Sun, Education Lead and Pedagogy Specialist at 3DBear


What is the augmented future like in schools 10 years from now?

It’s 2028. The day kicks off with physical exercise. The fifth graders of New Castillion School on Long Island, New York check that their augmented reality (AR) glasses are charged. They will be playing Quidditch known from Harry Potter. The players -witches and wizards- throw around a virtual ball visible only through their AR glasses. Goal posts and the golden snitch are also augmented. Quidditch is the most popular pesports - combination of physical sports and esports - game around. The best players of Quidditch in the World earn more than ice hockey players.

After a fun and tough PE, the fifth graders turn their attention to the design class. They are working on a project in which they redesign their school in augmented reality and then 3D print the best improvements. Amy and Mike are working on a study space on the second floor of the school. Amy looks at the area through AR glasses and with her hands she draws chairs and desks to exactly match the required dimensions in the space. Mike prefers to design using a mobile phone, and he uses his smartphone to add a small bookshelf and a stand to Amy’s design. With the help of augmented reality, design can be done on the spot and in the actual context.

Copy of IMG_4575.JPG

Mike and Amy finish up their design and other students in the classroom vote their design to be 3D printed. They order the new study space using 3D printing as a service provider which 3D prints the students’ design at a remote location and sends the ready design to them by mail in a day. They will see the new study space live tomorrow.

Next up is the English class. Students have read or listened to The Diary of Anne Frank during last month. Today they will make scenes from the book alive in AR. This helps visual and kinesthetic learners in the classroom to interpret the story of the book. Students visualize also their feelings when making the book alive in 3D. The most active students spice up the story of the book with their imagination, doing creative storytelling on top of the real plot of the book. In the end of the lesson, the east wing of New Castillion School has turned into a parallel universe containing The Diary of Anne Frank. Students have collaboratively created this 3D world and while doing so learned about literacy, design, verbal skills, project work and most important of all - themselves.

The final activity of the day is project work on recycling. New Castillion School participates in global turn waste plastic into 3D prints initiative. They have gathered plastic waste from home and brought it to the school. The school hosts local recycler which grinds the waste plastic, melts it, and turns it into raw material for 3D printers, filament. Tomorrow, when they will receive the 3D printed study space from 3D printing as a service provider, they will in exchange give them the recycled filament which decreases the price of their order.

To your surprise, all of the examples described in this story are already possible today, with the exception of Quidditch. Redesign your school and creative storytelling lessons can be found within 3DBear AR - application which we have developed. Recycling plastic as described is possible with our open source recycler. Welcome to the future.


Jussi Kajala

Writer is the CEO of 3DBear, Inc., and Chairman of the Board of 3DBear Ltd. Jussi has a degree from University of Cambridge, UK, and Ph.D. in theoretical physics. Before joining 3DBear Jussi was the employee of the year in Tekes - the Finnish funding agency for innovation. Now Jussi is realising his passion of enabling the creativity of children in 3DBear.


The changing role of libraries into maker spaces and 3DBear AR

Libraries have a fundamentally important role in modern societies. In fact, historically libraries - as well as schools - have been the early market for disruptions. Think of Augmented Reality (AR) or 3D-printing today or personal computers (PCs) in the 1980s.

Modern libraries are establishing themselves as hubs for lifelong learning and partners in education. There can be several student groups coming to a library per day. When those students arrive, they need well thought-out and pedagogically sound content, linked to curriculum, that can be run through in a limited time frame (typically 2-3 hours) and that is also fun and engaging. Many libraries are also offering summer programs to children when schools are closed for holidays. Leading edge libraries host STEM clubs, tech rooms and even turn themselves into escape rooms. 

When talking of students, it is not just children, but in many cases adult people who attend, say, training in 3D-modelling and 3D-printing in libraries. 3DBear has held many such events in libraries around Finland and abroad. As an example, check out our upcoming workshops in Kirjasto 10, the main library in Helsinki, where students make their own drones, which is such a cool and engaging activity to do.

Many libraries are turning into maker spaces and many of them have several 3D-printers. Typically users would come in, browse for some fun stuff in Thingiverse, such as mobile phone covers or key chains, take the ready-made model with a few tweaks and start 3D-printing. That is all good and well, but the problem with such an approach is that there is very little learning involved, after the first time rush of learning to search for and 3D-print models. 

What we have done in our 3DBear AR -app - that can be freely downloaded from Apple AppStore and Google Play - is to allow library visitors to upload their designs from Thingiverse and visualize them in AR! And check out our free lesson plans as well, linked to curriculum in Finland and US (and more to come based on ever growing demand).

At 3DBear we are all about creativity and learning. We believe in the maker ethic that the most valuable learning comes when a child is actively engaged in the process of designing and making; that is, learning through making. 

Libraries have a fundamentally important role in making the maker ethic come through. They provide access to technology and a platform for learning and publishing. Libraries also function as incubators for new ideas. In fact, the story of 3DBear is a good example of this, as our very first trials for 3D-printing own toys were done in Kirjasto 10, in Helsinki. After those tests we went to talk to the leading professor in Finland in 3D-printing, Mr Jouni Partanen, at Aalto University. Jussi Kajala, one of our Co-Founders, met Pekka Salokannel, our Lead Designer and Co-Founder, for the first time in a 3D-modelling course in a library. So without access to technology, opportunity for learning and access to leading knowledge in libraries and universities, companies like 3DBear simply would not exist. 

In fact, I have used this analogy that modern day libraries are like the famous Parthenon temple in Ancient Greece, where a modern day Socrates can accidentally bump into an Elon Musk and/or Pekka Salokannel and new ideas and wisdom emerges. 

Librarians have an incredibly important role in a modern society to facilitate such encounters. It is a role that is transforming and we do not know exactly what the end state will be. And the role of pioneers is not always easy. At 3DBear, our mission - and in fact my personal passion - is to help libraries and librarians to succeed in that role.

If you want to get started with more pedagogic content in libraries, go and check out the free 3D-models - designed by Pekka Salokannel - at the end of our Product pages: start with Parthenon and the golden ratio calliper. Do you notice that the Parthenon is in Golden ratio and what else can you find around you that is in golden ratio?

What essential service should modern day libraries be offering in your opinion? Send your ideas to We will reward the best answer.

Author Kristo Lehtonen, is the CEO of 3DBear

The moment when 3DBear got started

The moment when 3DBear got started

Kristo Lehtonen, CEO of 3DBear


3DBear Recycler Blog - Paul's Reflections - Entry #1

“He wanted me to build a machine.”

You should know right off that this is a long story, but I hope you'll find it interesting. There is enough of it, that I figured by breaking it up I could make a reasonable blog, talking about resources, DIY, dreams, and engineering. So I'll start this off by talking about how my buddy and I started working on the 3DBear recycler.

I'm Paul, and I became a student of engineering, because I was tired of watching poorly made and badly designed things break down, and become trash. It broke my heart to know so little about materials like the plastics that are accumulating in our oceans, and what to do about them. So I went back to school. The Arcada University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, Finland has a program in material science, an engineering degree, so I spent the summer brushing up on my math, and tested in. I met Janne my first day at the school and we got along right away, talking about mechanics, and 3D printing, and possibilities.

Once I got started there I learned loads of reasons that things are worse than we thought they were, and loads of reasons that we can't do anything about it; but I wanted more, I wanted to know about the things that haven't been done yet, and the basics that could be used to develop new methods. So I applied for funding for a research trip, I wanted to better understand waste accumulation. So I went to Bali and convinced local villagers to participate in an ecological project where waste was collected and I did my best to see how quickly it was accumulating and what was being done about it.

A pic of me sorting plastic waste during the Bali Ecological project

A pic of me sorting plastic waste during the Bali Ecological project

The project was a success. I got good data, and I learned a lot of practical skills in the process. Additionally I got the attention of a startup called 3DBear, they wanted to meet me to discuss an opportunity with them. Kristo Lehtonen, one of the founders, strode into the coffee shop where I had agreed to meet him. He is a striking sort of guy, his smile lights the place up and he seems to have an unlimited optimism, traits that are more common in my homeland of California than here in Finland. 

I noticed immediately that nothing was small or commonplace with him. Instead it was overarching vision and seizing this very moment. Usually I find that sort of thing a little cheesy, but when Kristo tells you about it, you can almost see it. So he told me 3DBear was all about changing the world starting with education, and I am all about that, but he went on. 

He wanted me to build a machine. An ecological device that would transform waste plastic into 3D printing filament. 3DBear was scouting both Janne and I to make something new and interesting. I was processing his plan just fine until he said something that threw me off. He said once Janne and I finish building the machine, the entire project goes open-source.


Now that guy who was tired of watching poorly made and badly designed things break down, me; well that guy knew for sure that companies don't invest in open-source. I also knew that startups, and 3DBear was a startup that was two or three months old, startups don't make investments in projects like this. But Kristo was adamant, he and his cofounders were set on doing more than just "changing the world", they wanted to do it responsibly.

So I hope you can understand that I had no choice in the matter. I was working with people who honestly wanted to do the right thing, and had assembled a team with the right skills and passion to meet those goals. I was making accessible technology that changes the way we look at waste. And I was working with one of my best friends. I could not be more grateful of the opportunity, and I have zero regret.

It has been a year, and the project is online, so come and check it out. 

I'll be blogging here, to talk about next steps, to talk about how the recycler can be used, to relate behind the scenes stories, and hopefully, to inspire you and those you know to redefine words like trash, waste, and possible.

Imagine a more flattering pic of Janne and I, can't do it can you?

Imagine a more flattering pic of Janne and I, can't do it can you?

What would you like to know about the project? 

Write to me at Paul (at)   with suggestions, questions, etc.

And don't forget to check out the recycler page and our open source files!