3D Printing in the Classroom — Who Cares?

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3D Printing in the Classroom — Who Cares?

We're excited to bring you this blog post by our Director of Education, David D. Thornburg, PhD.

I've chatted with lots of teachers over the years and now that 3D printers are becoming commonplace in many classrooms, a major complaint has emerged: “We got a printer for our class and after the kids made key chains, we didn't know what to do next, so we don't use it anymore."

This challenge is so commonplace that I thought I should address it. My view is that any technological tool used in education needs to be evaluated on the basis of its curricular connection. Just because something is new and flashy doesn't mean that it should be brought into classrooms. This applies to computers, tablets and other devices, including 3D printers.

In the realm of 3D printing (for example, in the STEAM fields), there are five tasks that form a sequence. These include background on the curricular topic, the design of the 3D parts for the project, the printing of the parts, their assembly into a finished artifact, and experimentation with the object to develop a deeper understanding of the topic. I show this as a loop because the cycle can repeat with embellishments for interesting projects.

Every one of these topics is important. Contrast this approach with one that involves simply downloading and printing designs stored on sites like Thingiverse. While such sites are useful for providing models of difficult-to-design parts, they pale in comparison with the learning that happens when students design projects on their own.

To illustrate the process, I'll show part of our STEAMtrax high school curriculum project on water turbines.

Background

Hydroelectric power provides a significant percentage of the electricity used in the US. The topic of water turbines bridges physics, engineering and mathematics. It allows students to explore Newton's laws, electric power generation and other curricular topics.

Design

After learning about the kinds of turbines used in hydroelectric dams, students are ready to design their own turbine for testing. While there are lots of design tools available (many of which are free), this project uses a free authoring environment called BlocksCAD. BlocksCAD has the advantage of being easy to learn, and for supporting the design of complex shapes.

 

Print

Once the design of the various parts is completed, the finished designs need to be printed. In our case this includes the turbine wheel itself, the wheel holder, and the end caps placed on the wheel axle that also allow a small DC motor to be added as a generator.

Assemble

The next step in the process is the assembly of the final system, including its connection to a voltmeter to show how much electricity is produced then the turbine wheel rotates.

Experiment

Once the assembly is completed, the wheel is subjected to a stream of water and students can see how much electricity is produced by a water turbine they built themselves. This leads to some new questions. For example, our first wheel had eight blades. What would happen if we had six blades ― or ten?

Because our modeling language is parametric, changing blade designs is as easy as changing the value of one variable. This lets students print and try differenct wheel designs with ease. By using an inexpensive laser tachometer, wheel rotational speed can be measured with different water flow rates and comparisons can be made between wheels with different numbers of blades. Suddenly this activity has a strong math component that aligns nicely with existing standards.

From this point, you can go back to the Background step and launch an exploration of different kinds of turbine designs.

When viewed from this perspective, 3D printing is a powerful tool in education. Instead of presenting the curriculum in a linear lecture-driven format where it is quickly forgotten, students learn through the process of “constructionism” where the things they learn will stay with them a long time.

The approach I just described applies to the curricular materials we develop at Polar3D under the STEAMtrax name.

By all means, make a nice keychain if you want, but then please quickly move to curricular-based projects like those provided by STEAMtrax to transform the learning experience using 3D printers as the key technology to do things you simply couldn't do before.

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Thanksgiving Challenge Winners!

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Thanksgiving Challenge Winners!

Now announcing our Thanksgiving Challenge Winners! We're so thankful for the bounty of 25 entrants, and the decision was a tough one. After much deliberation we focused on a few distinct qualities to chose the winners: theme, build difficulty and detail. Without further adieu, here's our runners up!

Second Runner Up - "Thanksgiving Utensil Holder" by: Brayden Boyum

"The turkey is a decoration and the two little hills on both sides you use to set your forks and spoons and stuff down on it."

First Runner Up - "Thanksgiving Table" by: Jada Fox

"The best day of the year where family comes together this little table shows a beautiful dinner with many different food and the word family on the side because family is the best thing to have at a Thanksgiving dinner."

Winner - "Cornucopia" by: Jayna Searles

"An iconic symbol of the first Thanksgiving, this cornucopia will make a great decoration for your Thanksgiving table."
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Congratulations to Jayna on her design challenge win! She will be receiving a roll of our cool Wood Filament! The runner's up will receive a roll of filament in the color of their choice too. Don't forget, you can download these great designs (using the links above) or any of the other great challenge entrants here on the Polar Cloud. Thank you to everyone who participated and keep an eye out for our upcoming Christmas Challenge, debuting soon!

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We're Thankful for Mrs. Jones and Her Talented Students!

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We're Thankful for Mrs. Jones and Her Talented Students!

Thank You Mrs. Jones!


Leading up to Thanksgiving, Polar 3D would like to acknowledge and thank some of our outstanding teachers and friends who are making an impact in the classroom.


Today we are thankful for Mrs. Jones and her students. A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit her classroom to see what they were working on. We were excited to visit Mrs. Jones' science class at Mason Middle School. Not only are her students winners of multiple Polar Challenges, but they're experimenting every day with STEAM science in a variety of ways! We couldn't get everyone's experiments into the video (seen below), but they are all amazing and noteworthy. Thanks for letting us visit Mrs. Jones!

We will go ahead and let the video and photo gallery (both shown below) do the most of the talking. However, Mrs. Jones' classroom is one of the best demonstrations of utilizing technology in the classroom, that we have seen. These students are using a wide array of skills from 3D printing, to programming using Makey Makey and Scratch, to making and editing stop motion movies, and much more.

Once again, thank you Mrs. Jones and keep up the great work!

 

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We're Thankful for "Boys & Girls Club of America"

A 3D Printed Harry Potter themed light switch cover.

A 3D Printed Harry Potter themed light switch cover.

Last but most definitely not least, our good friend, Kristen, from the Boys and Girls Club, had an AWESOME, holiday inspired print. This Ocarina is fully functional and completely printed on a Polar 3D printer.  Enjoy her festive rendition of Deck The Halls, in the video below.

Thank you so much Kristen, for sharing this with us. It is definitely one of the most creative prints we have seen!

Leading up to Thanksgiving, Polar 3D would like to acknowledge and thank some of our outstanding teachers and friends who are making an impact in the classroom


Over the past few years, Polar 3D has been blessed to work with the great people at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Their mission is "To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens."

This relationship is empowering young students through STEAM education and after school curriculum. The Boys and Girls Club has taken a huge focus on technology and we are so grateful to be a part of it. 

The pictures shown here are from the Marge Schott-Unnewehr Club, in Covington, KY. We recently had the opportunity to lead a training seminar at the club, on how to better utilize 3D printing and STEAM in the after school programs. 

We focused on getting familiar with the Polar Cloud, setting up prints on the build plate for the best success, and also how to create their own objects on TinkerCAD.

The Marge Schott-Unnewehr Club, has been busy printing and have created some very unique and creative objects. We love this kind of creativity from both the teachers and students!

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We're Thankful for Doug Noxsel

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We're Thankful for Doug Noxsel

Leading up to Thanksgiving, Polar 3D would like to acknowledge and thank some of our outstanding teachers and friends who are making an impact in the classroom.


First, we are thankful for Doug Noxsel, an incredibly passionate and empowering teacher in Cincinnati, OH. He teaches "Design and Modeling" as well as works with Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit organization that "provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S."

Here at Polar 3D we are thankful for Doug, and teachers like Doug, who go above and beyond to engage and inspire their students.

This weekend Doug took several Polar 3D printers to a robotics event where he was showing young students the practicality of 3D printing. 

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