Friday, November 21, 2014

2 Ways to Engage Students with 3D Printing

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     I'm fortunate enough to work in districts where there are incredible teachers looking to continually provide high quality experiences for our students using the latest technology and pedagogy.  Recently, I worked with a high school science teacher that really wanted to use his 3D printer for student critical thinking and collaborative projects.  This particular teacher knew that it would be a big undertaking, but he also wanted to move away from simply printing objects downloaded from Thingiverse.

     We introduced Autodesk's 123D Design web software to his physical science class, and let them play after a short tutorial.  I like using Autodesk for a few reasons:
- It's free!
- Students and teachers can use Google credentialing to sign in.
- It's fairly easy to use, and has an iPad app as well.
- 123D Design plays nicely with the Makerbot printers, and actually has a host of other apps from Autodesk which work together
- Autodesk offers loads of lesson plans, tutorials, and self-directed, digital STEAM 3D projects that are all available for free here.

     After the students became more familiar with the software, their teacher challenged them to solve a few real-world problems by creating and printing their ideas. One problem was to design a product that could aid a student who consistently loses pencils, or has an assistive need for such a device.  His students were very creative- and afterwards had great discussions and reflections over their designs and issues.
See-through pencil holder clips to a backpack. 
This simple design allows pencils to clip to the ring,
while the ring is attached to a bag using the small hole.

     Another task was to work collaboratively to design one of four wheels that would fit on a printed cart.  Students individually created wheels, hubs, and tires; however, each student had to work with another to make sure their individual wheel, when added to the cart, would allow the cart to roll and function.
Student designed and printed cart needs wheels, and an axle,
which are provided by other students.
Students had to collaborate to design wheels with similar
diameters and axles hole diameters.

These are two examples of engaging students with engaging problems, collaborative critical thinking skills, and reflective analysis of learning objectives.  The best advice when doing something similar with 3D printing and imaging software is to take the time to scaffold the skills needed for a larger project- don't throw this entire project, software and all, at the students all at once.

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