3D Printing in the STEM Lab

Herman L. Horn Makerbot 3D Printer

Students and teachers have been trying out the two new Makerbot Sketch 3D printers in the Herman L. Horn STEM Lab. During three MakerMonday workshops, student participants studied how 3D printers worked, learned to use Tinkercad, and designed their own creations. Tinkercad is a free online collection of software tools that help people all over the world think, create and make. The skills students learn using this tool will transfer to more robust programs when they are older, such as Autocad or Fusion 360.

Tinkercad

After learning how to navigate Tinkercad, students created their first project – nametag keychains. Then they learned to import images to create pencil toppers (or just their own personal statues) of various animals and sports icons. As their final project, students designed and printed their own mazes. So fun!

Marble Mazes

During Professional Development time, teachers received short, basic training on how to manage using Tinkercad and the 3D Printers with their students. The goal at Herman L. Horn is to get students exposed to designing in 3D and the idea of 3D printing at an early age…before they are tracked into career paths in secondary school. Teachers were encouraged to have their students DESIGN and CREATE the objects that are printed in the lab rather than downloading pre-made objects for printing. In this type of project, planning is key for both the teacher and the students.

Teachers were given an overview of how 3D printing will work in the STEM Lab.

Next, the group brainstormed ideas for 3D printing that meet core standards in Virginia.

And finally, teachers had the optional opportunity to try to design their own keyring for printing.

Over the coming weeks, the 3D printers will be working hard as teachers and students begin incorporating 3D design activities into their lessons.

Tinkerplay

I’ve been playing around with the app, Tinkerplay.  I started with my MakerMonday group of students and successfully printed one to the delight of the child who made it!

Then students in our FACES Special Education class designed characters during their Makerspace time.

Finally, I brought in a class of 22 third graders who are reading The Indian and Cupboard.  They designed action figures to place in the cupboard.

 

From those three trials, here’s what I’ve learned.

  • The smaller the scale, the easier it is for the action figures to break.  I found 75% was perfect.
  • Students can easily be given parameters to keep their figures from getting out of hand.  In the beginning, I had one action figure with 75 pieces!  I limited students on the amount of filament (grams) and the estimated print time.  They had no problem with this.
  • Saving is a bit complicated.  I attached Tinkerplay to our school dropbox account and saved to there.  I found that it automatically named the file with a number based on the time of day it was saved.  That meant, theoretically, if I didn’t clear out the folder before a group began saving the next day, things could get messy.  I also found that it was important to stagger saving so that people didn’t save on top of each other.  One save per minute.  I showed the students how to find the file name after it had saved so they could write it down.  It made it much easier to know whose was whose later.
  • Taking a picture of the finished creation helped students put them together when printing was finished.

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