iMake iLearn – 3D Printing and Discovery Education

iMake iLearn



Over the month of June, iMake iLearn will be publishing a series of blog posts about 3D printing.  Some of the posts are older posts that continue to be relevant to anyone new to 3D printing.

(See the original post from December 2013 on the iCreate iLearn Blog).

So today I shared the 3D printer with several of our teachers who were interested.  One of the questions that was posed was – Why do we need a 3D printer in the elementary school?  At first I didn’t know how to answer this as I am still learning about how to print and consuming the designs of others.  My initial reaction was “Why not?”.  But this question has stayed with me for several hours as I ponder the “why”.

Why do we as teachers question why we should use new technology like 3D printers, video games like Minecraft, and other technology that engages and inspires our students… yet we willingly accept standardized testing, bi-monthly assessments, common core standards, and the like.  When did learning become assessment and creation became a novelty?  I am not willing to defend the why of 3D printing because in my creator, life-long learning heart, I know that creation is central to learning.  It may start with consuming but it will only take a while before creation will happen.

I want to be engaged and excited about learning and I believe that my students want to also.  Learning is about playing, creating, making mistakes, working together to find a better solution, and trying again.  So my response is “Why would you not have a 3D printer in your school?”.

(See the original post from August 2014 on the  iCreate iLearn Blog).
Sometimes there are lessons that you learn in your journey to try new technology that you wish you would have known sooner.  Here are just a few that I have learned in the last 6 months in regards to 3D printing.

Lesson 1 – Consume to Create

You need to consume in order to create.  Don’t be afraid to print designs from sites like Thingiverse because it helps you to understand how your printer works.  It will also lead to lessons where the print will not work which will cause you to question why.  Questioning is never a bad thing.Following a recipe isn’t a bad thing.  The Invent to Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom is a great resource to start with.  You need to be able to understand in order to modify and create sometimes.  But make sure that you move beyond consumption and recipes to the real power of creating with the 3D printer.

Lesson 2 – Connect with your Community

One of the most powerful resources you have when learning and using new technology is the community around you.  You don’t know who you have around you in your community if you don’t reach out.  I found an amazing resource in Radiant Fabrication and Nathan Patterson, one of the owners of the company.  By teaming with someone more knowledgeable, I was able to implement our 3D printer in ways that I wouldn’t have thought of.

Lesson 3 – Resources

You aren’t the first one to go down this path.  Tapping into resources like the Invent to Learn website resources will help immensely.  Connect with other educators.  Follow blogs like MakerHome and Tales of a 3D Printer… you just never know what you will learn.

(See the original post from October 2014 on the iCreate iLearn Blog).


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 withThingiverse 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…..

Related posts

One Comment;

  1. Allen said:

    Welcome to, the home of low cost, hi-definition print with beautiful design from local studios.. Folded Leaflets

Comments are closed.