3D printing is a new technology that can really transform the learning environment in a school. With all new technology it is sometimes very difficult to imagine if you don’t understand what the technology can do. In our journey of creation with 3D Printing, we started with printing designs that had already been created to better understand the possibilities but also how the 3D printer works.
I introduced 3D printing through a Discovery Education board that I created for students. We started with Thingiverse which is a website full of creations that can be printed on a 3D printer. Students created accounts which allow them to “heart” different designs. Thingiverse also has customizable designs which is what we used to create classroom name tags for our SP Design Lab.
Entry Level Creation – Charmr
We started to explore the idea of student designed charms using Charmr. Students in our after-school program really enjoyed this tool. The advantages to this type of printing is that it is excellent for entry level creation and prints in a short amount of time. We have created school charms for our rainbow loom because you can copy and paste multiple charms to the build plate and let the printer go.
Intermediate Level Creation – Tinkercad, Radiant Li
We have been extremely fortunate to have Nathan Patterson from Radiant Fabrication teaching our students about 3D printing. Students started using Radiant Li, the software that his company developed and offers as a download from their website Radiant Fabrication. Because of the similarities to Minecraft, many of our students have found it an easy creation tool.
We also looked at Tinkercad, another free web based software for 3D design. We ran into a slight problem with our computer compatibility with Tinkercad so I have a little bit of investigating as to what happened that caused the site to not work today. We found that only 5 of our lab computers were compatible as we have older operating systems that are not compatible. We have a school account for our designers with Tinkercad that is monitored as it requires a parent creating the account or the subscriber to be over 13 years old.
3D Printing – The First Print
There is something so magical about watching your first design print. Listening to the 3D printer warm up and getting ready as what you have created in the virtual world becomes part of the physical world. Slowly the extruder pushes and lays down the PLA to create your design. It is important that students are present when their designs are printing. Through challenges of web based 3D programs not working, our students persisted and have created their first printable design.
Discovery Board Builder
Throughout the process of learning and creating with 3D printing, students documented what they were learning through pictures and videos using iPad minis. They then brought all of their learning into one Discovery Education student created board by uploading the videos and pictures from the iPad into their board. Students found it easier to add text on a computer but being able to use multiple devices to document and share their learning is one great feature of Discovery Board Builder.
If you have a DE account, you can search boards on 3D printing to see some great boards that students have created to share their learning.
Reflection is a powerful part of the learning process as prints will fail. Sometimes we like to skip this part of the process but without reflection, the process is not complete. This is the most magical and frustrating part of the process because it encourages learners to reach out and ask questions. Why didn’t it work? How could I change my design?
And the learning cycle continues…..