3D Printers and Design Thinking

The 3D printer was unpacked and we started printing. The learner exclaimed, “I’m going to remember this moment as the first time I witnessed printing using a 3D printer.” There is no doubt, we’re at the beginning of something new. So how can the use of 3D printers enhance/support the curriculum?

This shows a 3D printed section of a periodic table of the elements.Muskegon High School science teacher, Sheila Tjapkes wanted her students to go deeper into their knowledge of periodic table elements.  She had each student design and print a 3D “tile” for an element.  Part of the design was adding something unique to the tile which represented that element, for example - gold (Au) had a symbol of a gold bar.

Your local REMC has one or more 3D printers available for loan to the schools it supports. Teachers often begin with 3D printer fundamentals and guide students to find, customize, download, and print an object. A popular project is the creation of a custom name tag from http://thingiverse.com, or unique cookie cutter from www.cookiecaster.com. If they want to go deeper, they may have students enroll in the free 3D printing fundamentals course from https://u.tinkerine.com/courses.

Remove the focus from the printer

Teachers are encouraged to weave “Design Thinking” into the creation process. What is the problem students are trying to solve? If creating a 3D object is what is needed, then what is the best programs to create and print what they design? Most teachers start with the free http://tinkercad.com program. This popular program provides easy-to-follow tutorials and is web based, pefect for Chromebook users. Objects created in Tinkercad can be saved as .stl files - a standard format for 3D printers.

Teaching students to be creative problem solvers is the fourth standard from the ISTE NETS Standards for Students.  Innovative Designer - students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions. https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

The cost to get started with 3D printing continues to fall. The New Matter MOD-t 3D printer, a popular printer at REMC 4/MAISD, is only $299 https://newmatter.com Printer filament is relatively inexpensive as well, with a 1 Kg roll of PLA filament priced at around $22. Depending on object size, a single roll of filament will often print 100 or more objects.

Submitted by:
Andy Mann
Muskegon Area ISD