This happened because I was at the DigiCon conference and was chatting to Dr Michael Henderson from Monash University. He had a Structure Sensor attached to his iPad and kindly offered to scan me for the purposes of beginning my digital journey.
I have previously tried to turn myself into a computer model. But this is new and exciting and can be attached to an iPad!
I like new and exciting. I am head of Technology at St James and have plenty of scope to test out the new stuff that comes up at IT conferences. But 3D isn’t new any more. It’s here to stay and it simply pulses with opportunities for extending our students’ learning opportunities. And yet, it’s new enough that there is very little out there in the way of curriculum.
So I had to make my own.
This year, I started by focusing on getting my Year 8 students engaged and up to scratch with the technologies. We have a couple of 3D printers in the school We use Autodesk Maya in Year 1o for a Certificate II in Creative Industries through AIE. Maya will be installed on all of the computers by the end of the Year, but I still wanted something simpler for the Year 8 students. TinkerCAD was an easy choice. It is free. It’s backed up (now) by the power of Autodesk. It has extensive tutorials built in. And it runs purely from within an Internet browser (unless you want to use Explorer – but who does?).
So with the software chosen, I looked for something to print on it. 3D printing is about being able to work in the 3D space and translate that into a physical object. Using that within the Technologies and ICT frameworks, I also needed the boys to follow a process and solve a problem. Starting small, I challenged them to create the following:
- A container – this needed to be hinged or otherwise able to open and close.
- A game piece – recreating a real game piece or creating something new for a made up game.
- Something bigger than 15x15x15cm – this is the footprint we had to deal with. There are plenty of ways to extend this, through joints and clips and pegs and such.
- Something that moves – gears, wheels, springs. They had to try and create something that would do something.
To finish off, I borrowed (stole) an excellent idea from Kilvington Grammar. At last year’s DLTV conference, they presented the idea of having the students create a play park. They had to research parks, environmental issues, flow through within the park and materials that could be used. And then they would plan the entire park in a group and design and print one piece each to put the park together.
This worked really well in the first semester this year. The boys were engaged. I had them come up with their own assessment criteria and promoted self-and-peer marking. They decided that complexity, originality, aesthetics and practicality were the most important attributes for a model.
But we were still only barely breaching the surface of the 3D printing mine of ideas. In this, our second semester of 3D design in Year 8, I decided to expand the possibilities, and created 3D Bingo.
My students have to complete a line of the grid to complete this unit. They can go sideways, up and down or diagonally. They’ll create four models from the white section and one purple. I don’t expect a lot of research from the models in the white grid, although they obviously could be used in that way. My students use these options to hone their skills and work towards the purple square. The star in the centre can be used as a wild card – they can choose any other square to complete, even if it isn’t on their chosen line. I have chosen pieces that cross most of the curriculum areas in the school to give other teachers some ideas as to how the printers can be used in their learning areas.
And then the boys need to complete their purple square.
This is the Major Project square. This is the “research and present” part of the assessment. Fingers crossed, but this should be where the boys explore a concept and THEN make the model.
The four squares on the right come from a challenge by Thingiverse. Those along the bottom come from my brain, apart from the previously mentioned Playground Piece. The students will research the idea, look at possible solutions, present their research and then create and evaluate the model.
And STILL we are only touching the surface of the possibilities. 3D printing companies are starting to get on board, creating curriculums based around their specific printer, but focusing on 3D printing in general, rapid prototyping, materials and research as well as practical exercises. There are games and activities that can be wrapped around the 3D concepts.
The conversations that came out of DigiCon15 were numerous, but some of the more pervasive ideas were:
- Getting schools to pay for the technology
- Getting learning areas other than IT to use the technology
- Costs of consumables and
- Being on board with another possible flash-in-the-pan fad.
First up, I bought our first 3D printer – an Up Mini – for $600. Less than the cost of a good laser printer. I used the roll of materials that came with the printer for the rest of the year without running out. I worked out that most of my prints would cost about $2. Money shouldn’t be a concern when offset against the possibilities for enhanced learning.
If buying the printer is still an issue, consider pooling your resources with other schools in the area. I know that our printers aren’t running 24/7. Maybe look into a partnership with the local libraries or community centre. Public makerspaces are becoming more common and are a viable alternative to buying your own printer.
Secondly, I was chatting with the woodwork teacher, who had just helped a student put together a cabinet for his mother. The overall cost for the project in materials was about $60. This is perfectly fine and expected in a practical subject involving specific knowledge. Science pracs involving frogs and rat cadavers and other materials all cost. Art supplies are consumed at a remarkable rate. And don’t even get me started on photocopying costs.
The solution to having the technology used by other learning areas was to not have it hidden in the IT labs, but located in a central “making space” that is visible and accessible to all learning areas. It is an excellent way to promote the school during tours and it takes away from teachers needing to ask the IT person for access or permission, needed or not.
Finally, there is no doubt that this technology will change and grow over the next few years. I’m absolutely sure that my state-of-the-art printer will be obsolete before I’ve gotten my money’s worth. But the concepts – the ideas behind this technology – they are here to stay. And I’m sure that my boys will make their way into the future with skills that they will absolutely use in our 3D printed world.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to creating the voice sync software to allow me to teach from home in my pajamas.
- UP! – A number of very clever, cost-effective machines. Used at a number of schools and well within the budget of even the home hobbyist.
- Stratasys – Our Mojo produces some gorgeous prints. Definitely not a hobbyist machine, but takes 3D modelling to the next level.
- MakerBot – One of the big players in 3D printing aimed at the low end and upwards.
- Make your own! Take a look at the RepRap.org wiki.