Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's More Than Just Printing in 3D

I'm a relative newbie to the 3D printing world. It has always fascinated me, but my first hands-on experience did not come until my school got a printer for our Makerspace. I played with it on a regular basis and fell in love with the things it could do. It was magical to me. I never thought I would see something like this in my lifetime. It was too Sci-Fi in my mind.

I was able to have a 3D printer in my home the past month and I printed like a mad man. After a while, my wonderful wife asked me what I'm going to do with this printer. I can't just keep printing nerdy things to clutter the house. She is 100% correct here. After the thrill of printing things has worn off, what do I have left?

My House

I designed this house using Tinkercad. My students use this at school and I'm working on getting better at it. It's not perfect, but I'm so proud of this house I built.

I have watched my students work on fun and crazy projects over the past few weeks and the things they are creating are amazing. Here are some images of topographical maps of mythical landscapes from works of Fiction. This is so cool. The students needed to do some research and design these maps using 3D design tools. This has the students taking literature to a level I did not think possible or practical. I think about this for social studies and other classes that needs students to visualize projects for class.

Printing is just the end result of hours of design. It's not the printed object that matters most, the skills attained during the design process matter the most. I never thought in 3D. Looking at designs I'm working on at the moment, I need to think about the crazy way physics will work. I wanted to see if I could design a ball trapped in a square. This doesn't seem super crazy, but, for me, it was a difficult concept to wrap my head around because I needed to think differently. Here is the design I came up with for my idea.

I did print it and it worked! I posed a problem for myself and I set out to solve it. These are the types of things we need to offer to our students. Find a problem and design a solution. I struggled with my solution, but since I wanted to solve the problem I chose, I worked my butt of to do it. Once I did, I felt like a rockstar.

3D Printing is not about the printing at all. It's about the design process. As teachers, just taking another teacher's lesson, making copies, and giving it to students is not good teaching. Taking something somebody has created, tweaking it to make it your own, is a great way to grow as a teacher. Finally, taking a chance to create something brand new to address a problem is a big risk, but the reward of doing it correctly, is worth every hour that goes in.

Leo was just watching the printer with a sense of wonder. He wants to design his own items and print them out as soon as possible. He has a chance to learn about design, shapes, the physics of building items, geometry, measurements, and so much more. He will learn these as part of a the design process and he will do it because he wants to. It will be relevant to him and he will learn because of that fact. As teachers, we need to work hard to make as much of our curriculum matter to our students so we can engage them at the highest level possible. A 3D printer is not the answer to all that ails us, but it is another tool that can help students AND teachers work to be better learners.

I will be looking at my lesson planning through the eyes of a designer and a maker more to really see what I can do differently and I'm going to encourage my students to spend more time designing and less time copying.

Share your thoughts on Making and Design in the comment section below.

Hugs and High Fives,


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