Last year I was figuring this whole 3D printing thing out. I made plenty of mistakes and let things get printed that shouldn’t have been printed in the first place. But now, having learned from my mistakes, the printing this year has generally been going a lot more smoothly. The first major difference is that I’m only printing designs created by students. Last year students were just looking up action figures and cars on Tinkercad and asking for them to be printed. I learned a lot from printing these but the students didn’t learn much about 3D design from just taking someone else’s idea. By enforcing the original creation rule this year, the students have been a lot more creative and have been trying to print some unique things.
First of all, a few months ago I was able to rearrange my classroom so that now I have a designated 3D printing alcove. The printers and computers are off to the side of the room so that the noise and the distraction is no longer front and center. This also makes it much easier for me to manage students in the room and keeps the printers out of the way of students working elsewhere. The Makerbot continues to soldier on and has been the reliable workhorse for us. Unfortunately, the Lulzbot has become much less reliable and is rather troublesome. We have two of these on campus, and one of the two has been out of commission for almost the entire year. The largest problem was when one no longer moved along the Y or Z axis and required a new motherboard to fix the problem. Now I’m having heating troubles with the new one, where the plate and nozzle don’t warm up fully before the print starts and everything ends up peeling up off the baseplate and causes a jam. Anyway, even with these troubles I’ve been pretty much keeping the Makerbot printing constantly all year and have been producing a lot of student created projects.
Around the holiday time, several students had their own idea to print presents for their family members. I did not announce this as an idea and was so glad to see students using the resources available to them to create unique gifts. Above are the impressive projects created by two 6th grade students.
The student who created the ship and airplane above has become quite prolific with printing things of interest to him. Both of these are completely student designed and really show his understanding of adding and subtracting the basic shapes in Tinkercad to replicate a real object.
Samples of some of the other designs created by middle school students. I didn’t get anything nearly this impressive created by students last year. The prints above: A motorcycle, a hockey rink, a Quidditch arena, and a dragon’s head.
One of the most exciting things to see has been the elementary students discovering 3D printing. They are able to come in at lunchtime and use the two computers in my room to create. There are a handful of 1st graders and kindergartners who have been quite prolific lately too. Most of the students start out with just piles of random shapes but then someone shows them how to stack them or how to connect them and interesting creations are made. Above are samples from Kindergartners. The transformation of random shapes into a die and a music box shows how just time spent thinking three dimensions expands what is possible.
In looking at these next two designs, one interesting thing I noticed is that one student has learned how to resize shapes while the other hasn’t. The red car is made up of three cubes as opposed to one rectangular prism. This is definitely an example of making the best with what you have, but I can only image this student’s mind being blown when he or she learns what else is possible.
Finally, I continue to be wowed by the random student who comes in, sits down for 10 minutes, and recreates an amazing creature. She understands the concept of making sure the pieces connect and is manipulating the shapes to represent a specific item in real life. I’m so glad to be able to offer this opportunity to her and to all the other students who now have access to a new method of artistic expression.