Dr Brokk Toggerson

Dr. Brokk Toggerson

Dept. of Physics


Making content and concepts accessible for all of his students is at the forefront of Dr Brokk Toggerson’s mind. As he designs and iterates on aspects of his physics courses, he is informed by the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines, which aim to “ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities” (CAST).

In a discipline such as physics, learners need to develop a three-dimensional understanding of concepts and processes. However, Dr. Toggerson has learned that many students find it challenging to think and manipulate ideas in 3D. For example, it can be challenging for students to conceptualize how light flows through a lens, especially for students with visual impairments.

To help address this challenge, Dr. Toggerson came up with a unique solution: 3D printing.

3D Printing for 3D Thinking

3D printing is a technology with the ability to print designs in 3D formats; physical models can be manufactured using polymer. For example, in the physics context, models demonstrating the magnetic field or light flow can be created, allowing students to visualize, touch, and interact with the concept directly. Additionally, these models can be utilized to pose various questions and case studies, further enhancing the learning experience and developing critical thinking skills among students of all abilities. 

By creating tactile learning materials, students can physically feel the concept, aiding in creating a learning environment that is inclusive and accessible to all students, regardless of their physical abilities. 

To learn more about Dr. Toggerson’s approach, you can read In Service of Equity: 3D-Printed Models in University Introductory Physics.

How/where can I 3D print? 

A 3D printed tactile learning module
A 3D Printed Tactile Learning Module 

UMass instructors can visit The Digital Media Lab 3D’s Innovation Centre located in DuBois Library to print their designs at an affordable cost.

Websites such as Thingiverse offer a plethora of models that can be downloaded, edited, or even created from scratch using tools like TinkerCAD, and then printed at the library, making the process both accessible and user-friendly.


3D Printing Beyond Physics

3D printing’s application in education extends beyond physics. It could be used for classroom demonstrations, online or in-person, to explain various processes and create models of molecules, mathematical functions, and cultural/historical artifacts. These models provide a tangible item and can be particularly useful in helping students grasp abstract concepts. 

Dr. Toggerson is not stopping with magnetic fields, however. He is currently exploring the use of Augmented Reality (AR) in conjunction with 3D printing. This combination holds great potential for remote teaching, allowing students to interact with 3D models virtually, irrespective of their physical location.
For those interested in exploring more, the Physics Education Group at UMass offers additional resources and examples of work done using 3D printing in education. Embracing this technology is a step forward in creating a more inclusive and interactive learning environment, preparing students to think critically and excel in their respective fields.


CAST. About Universal Design for Learning.Accessed 21 November 2023. https://www.cast.org/impact/universal-design-for-learning-udl

Toggerson, B. K. (2022). In Service of Equity: 3D-Printed Models in University Introductory Physics. The Physics Teacher60(7), 565-568. https://doi.org/10.1119/5.0042458

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