UntitledLearning and competing are two elements you will find go together in nearly every culture, and especially the educational arena. It’s also a natural part of the artistic process as well, as when an artist creates something, it is usually meant to stand on its own as one of a kind. This has been taken to a new level with the advent of 3D printing, a fairly new technology to hit the mainstream–as well as many schools and libraries.

Both 3D printing contests and programs are being heavily pushed overall for students not only to take their artistic acumen to elevated heights but truly to gain their interest in the science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) agenda and curriculum. This is being emphasized in schools and in library programs as there is a need for graduates in the work force with skill sets like digital design and comprehensive knowledge of 3D printing.

UntitledThe latest competition we’re looking at, via the Glen Ellyn Public Library in Illinois, is particularly impressive due to the ages of some of the designers. While some older students and adults participated and won too, it was the middle school students basically between the ages of seven and eleven who really rocked the contest with designs that seemed to blow everyone away as they showed serious aptitude for 3D design, coming up with some complex ideas and bringing them to fruition in physical form.

One of the “most complex” designs was handed to a middle schooler, Beckham Ytterdahl, who decided to take on the Glen Art Theatre in miniature, producing a replica of the building hailing from the 1920s, a small venue that has retained its charm and is still open for business, inviting patrons for both first-run and independent films. Once he submitted his design, it was printed (taking about six hours), along with the other winners, at the library, which had ordered a special gold filament just for the best designs.

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Beckham Ytterdahl, with one of the ‘most complex’ winning designs.

“It was a really impressive design,” said Christina Keasler, middle school librarian at the Glen Ellyn Public Library. “Seeing that type of caliber of design from a middle school student was particularly impressive.”

This contest, their first, received 15 entries. Some of the other winners were:

  • Andrew Park, who won “Most creative” (grades three to five) for a space ship featuring an internal moving ball
  • Evan Stevens, who won “Most Creative” (grades six to eight) for a Freddy Fazbear design, inspired by the game–and even including the bear’s bowtie and hat
  • Will Roberts, who won “Best Overall” (grades nine to twelve) for a bird design intended for an animated film
  • Erin Kuhl, who won “Most Creative” (adults) for her shuttle design that even includes detachable rocket boosters

UntitledThe library currently has one 3D printer, with another arriving soon. The contest was meant to publicize and kick off their 3D printing program and classes offered, with winning designs on display in the library’s youth department through the end of January. Currently, the library does have a number of patrons, younger ones included, who come in and regularly use the 3D printers. The additional one should be installed by the end of the month.

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