Sunday, May 31, 2015

My students actually printed in 3D

Students watching Pinkie Pie at work
Since I first saw a 3D printer demonstration, I've been thinking about how to put that technology to use in my classroom. Luckily I was able to work out a partnership with my local library to make it happen.

Tinkercad was an ideal design platform
We kicked off our project with a visit from Nick Madsen, the teen services librarian, and his 3D printer, Pinkie Pie. He printed a mustache for our class while explaining the basic idea behind 3D printing: "It's like a computer-controlled hot glue gun that shoots out plastic instead of glue." My students were amazed, as was my principal, custodian, and many other staff members who poked their heads in the room to see 3D printing in person.

My 4th grade math class used Tinkercad to create their own 3D printed nametags. I was really impressed with how easily they could create with Tinkercad: after spending two class periods on tutorials, students were able to make their own designs in under an hour. Plus, Tinkercad worked flawlessly on Chromebooks. I gave my students some parameters on size, but the designs were entirely up to them. I also used the design process to sneak in some instruction on perimeter and area.

I uploaded using the library's Skyforge site
The finished nametags were great! Nearly all my students were happy with the way their designs turned out. I wish we had more time to use the finished products to do some measuring and scaling work, but testing schedules and end of the year field trips made that impossible.

I definitely want to do more with 3D printing next year and integrate it into more lessons. I'll start by seeking some grant money to fund a printer at our school. Our art teacher has a lot of ideas for it, too, so we'll probably collaborate on a way to bring 3D printing to our school.

The finished product
Do you have any recommendations when it comes to 3D printing equipment? Or maybe you have an idea to share on using 3D printing with elementary students. Please share your ideas in the comments below or contact me on Twitter. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...

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