A great post on the Google Sketchup Blog tells the story of educator Michele Macloud of Louisiana who introduced Sketchup to her 8th grade students as part of their Mathematics curriculum. As you might imagine, the 8th graders were not terribly interested in traditional math material. But when shown Sketchup, they immediately took to it en masse, sharing tips and doing the group-learn thing.
Their Sketchup adventure continued when they began to model their own school - requiring actual physical measurements, a topic not often learned strongly. Because of their keenness to use Sketchup, the students eagerly perform the physical measurements. Their work led to a further assignment: designing an entire school! We don't know how much of their efforts will be taken into the final design, but that's not the point here.
The point is that new 3D tools ignited a fire in the minds of students, bringing their full attention to the task of creation using modern tools. We're wondering if the spread of 3D printers within the educational system will do the same for manufacturing interest among students.