learnmakegiveWhen I was in middle school shop class, we engraved plastic keychains. There was no design to them other than settling on the brief text we wanted and ensuring we didn’t get our preteen fingers caught in the heavy machinery. Kids today are also able to create their own personalized keychains — but they do so very literally, thanks to the influx of 3D printers coming into classrooms. My young nieces have already worked with 3D printers at STEAM-based camps, and I can only imagine what they’ll be making by the time they hit high school and college. The technology isn’t in every school, of course, but it is spreading at an impressive pace across the United States as well as the rest of the world.

Back in December, we heard about a lovely initiative from Dremel as they introduced the #LearnMakeGive contest to award schools across the US with 3D printers; we’ve had hands-on experience using the Dremel Idea Builder 3D40 to see just how user friendly it is and found it to be very beginner-friendly and quiet enough for classroom use. Toward the end of January, #LearnMakeGive winners were announced as the company awarded 70 of their Dremel Idea Builder 3D printers, along with some filament, following a week-long public vote that garnered more than 6,000 responses. Each submission from educators was to include a model, sketch, or CAD design from their classroom, along with a written description of how the 3D object they designed would impact their school or community. Among the winning selections were designs set to donate prosthetics, kick off school-wide pay-it-forward campaigns, and efforts for community volunteering activities such as helping injured animals.

“The most powerful learning experiences we can offer are those that help students see the potential they have to make real change in the world around them. We’re very much looking forward to seeing how dozens of schools will apply 3D printing technology and STEM education to help build a better tomorrow,” said Rafael Franca, manager, Dremel 3D Education upon the announcement of the winners.

The complete list of winning schools follows at the end of this article, but to see more of the personal impact than simply a bulleted list can provide, we wanted to hear right from some of the winners about how the new 3D printing technology will benefit their classrooms. Their personal stories provide a look at just how today’s students, in both K-12 and upper education, benefit from this technology, as two educators answered A Few Questions For us.

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Tracey Wong and Rocco Varuolo, Greenburgh’s Director of Digital Learning, Systems and Accountability, with the two new Dremel 3D printers [Photo: Ms. Wong’s Wonders]

Sharing their thoughts with us are Tracey Wong, School Library Media Specialist, Highview School, Greenburgh Central School District in New York; and Tim Kochem, Graduate Assistant in the College of Education’s Technology Center, West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Can you describe your experience with 3D printing and makerspaces?

Wong: “A few months ago, the library started a makerspace. The kids come in and get a chance to tinker, explore and follow their interests. They dictate how the time is spent. It’s their time. We have Dash and Dots they program with an iPad, Kevia planks to build or just a bunch of recyclable materials that they get creative with.

The kids are in awe that we actually have a 3D printer. They have never experienced it before, but have heard of them. We really wanted one but didn’t have the budget for it. We started printing a few of the build that are in the 3D Dremel this week. We are putting together a team and will learn to use Tinkercad in order to make our own designs.”

Kochem: “My experience with 3D printing and makerspaces is mostly theoretical knowledge. With the new 3D printers, I hope to drastically change that theoretical knowledge into application. Also, we’re thinking about rolling out a training program with 3D printers that student teachers will be able to enroll in. After completion of the training, student teachers may be allowed to loan a 3D printer (for a day or two) to bring into their field placements and conduct exercises and projects with them.”

wcuheaderlogoHow has 3D printing impacted the engagement and learning experiences of your students?

Wong: “Kids are alive and stimulated. They run over to the Dremel in the middle of class to check the progress of the object being built. They’re fascinated that they can create something from nothing and they can’t wait to use their imaginations for fun learning. The Dremel is helping support student choice and voice. I think good teaching is changing. Learning is no longer teacher dominated, but driven by children, their passions and their desire to be heard.”

Kochem: “So far, the special education majors have started two separate projects for visually-impaired students. The first project is a tactile reading book of the poem ‘Goodnight Moon’. They have completed several pages and most of the braille that goes along with the pictures. The second project are little discs with individual planets in our solar system. Above the planet is its name printed in braille, and underneath is the numerical rank of the planet (e.g., Earth is #3, or the 3rd closest to the sun). From these experiences, I do not want the student teachers to believe that 3D printing is the ultimate goal. I want them to walk away from the experience with the understanding that it is the process leading up to 3D printing that allows for the most teachable moments.”

Could you share the inspiration for your classroom’s #LearnMakeGive project idea?

Wong: “Greenburgh CSD is an IB School District. We focus on inquiry, articulating and defending ideas. Through literature and hands on projects, I try to teach citizenship and how scholars can make a difference in the community for positive change. In collaboration with the Director of Technology, Rocco Varuolo, we thought how can we capitalize on the kids’ interests and help them learn to give back to the community. All kids love pets. Imagine if they could help pets right in their community!”

The project description Wong submitted read:

“Using the 3D printer, scholars would like to create casts to make limbs for pets without limbs. Children would work with veterinarians to constructs mobile attachments and donate the limbs to shelters and pet owners who owned an animal in need of a limb.”

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The drawing submitted with Wong’s proposal

Kochem: “The technology center is adjacent to the offices for special education. As such, we often have little projects handed to us about how we can make learning materials more accessible with emerging technologies. Proloquo2Go is one such project: understanding what the app is, its benefits and pitfalls, and instruction strategies that may be employed when using the app. While browsing the internet one night, I happened to come across a website, thingiverse.com, and I almost immediately fell in love with the idea of 3D printing. When I saw that we could build tangible artifacts to be used in the classroom, I knew this was something I needed to know more about. One model on the website was a project similar to our tactile reading book, which was the real inspiration behind our first project.”

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Design from Kochem

How do you hope this project will impact your school/community and your students?

Wong: “This is an amazing project. Kids are doing something they are passion about. They are learning while using technology effectively for a meaningful purpose. The community benefits from animals being made complete. The pets in shelters will get their missing limbs and this will help them eventually get placed in homes.  I think its a win -win since its an authentic, hand on learning project. And the Greenburgh community also gets to experience how 3D printing is more than creating models. It has real implications for being a game changer!”

Kochem: “I hope it will show our student teachers that the next wave of emergent technology is already here. If we want to keep our students interested and engaged with the materials, we need to stay on top of current trends and introduce them to the technologies that will shape their future. The same was done for me when I was a kid: I created a 3D model of a space shuttle, and one of my dad’s friends at General Motors used a large dot-matrix printer to create my blueprint for me. To this day, my space shuttle sits in a frame on the wall and remains one of my most treasured accomplishments.”

Anything else you’d like to share?

Wong: “Thank you for supporting public school children. When you care about their learning, you are supporting our future!”

The place of technology in schools is indisputably a growing one, and one that benefits students and educators alike. Through initiatives such as #LearnMakeGive, manufacturers of 3D printers are practicing an all-too-rare sense of community awareness in helping to provide their technology to those who will be, in not so very long a time, the primary users. Today’s students are tomorrow’s makers and entrepreneurs, and indeed we frequently see incredible contributions coming from student makers around the world.

We hope to continue to see inspiring stories of students exposed to 3D printing technology and putting it to great use in their communities. A primary benefit of 3D printing is that it offers a localized and sustainable technology that can offer creative improvement and production for many.

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[Photo: Clare Scott for 3DPrint.com]

The full list of winning K-12 schools and higher education institutions from #LearnMakeGive are:

  • Belvidere Star School, Belvidere, Ill.
  • Charter High School for Architecture and Design, Philadelphia, Penn.
  • Cimarron Springs Elementary, Surprise, Ariz.
  • Delaware Design-Lab High School, Newark, Del.
  • Eisenhower Elementary, Clearwater, Fla.Hampstead Middle School, Hampstead, N.H.
  • Hampstead Central School, Hampstead, N.H.
  • Highview School, Hartsdale, N.Y.
  • Hooks High School, Hooks, Tex.
  • Imaculata High School, Somerville, N.J.
  • Jane Addams Middle School, Lawndale, Calif.
  • KIPP Generations, Houston, Tex.
  • KIPP Houston High School, Houston, Tex.
  • Mapleton Elementary School, Ashland, Ohio
  • Marinette High School, Marinette, Wis.
  • Meadow View Elementary, Oconomowoc, Wis.
  • Mishicot High School, Mishicot, Wis.
  • Monte Sano Elementary School, Huntsville, Ala.
  • Morris County School of Technology, Denville, N.J.
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Otsego Public Schools, Otsego, Mich.
  • Pleasantville High School, Pleasantville, N.J.
  • Quantum Academy, Escondido, Calif.
  • Sevastopol School District, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
  • Southfield Christian School, Southfield, Mich.
  • St. Austin Catholic School, Austin, Tex.
  • Stillwater Christian School, Kalispell, Mont.
  • Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, Kansas City, Kan.
  • Taos Academy, Taos, N.H.
  • University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, Wis.
  • Vilonia High School, Vilonia, Ark.
  • Warren ISD, Warren, Tex.
  • West Charter University, West Chester, Penn.
  • West Education Center, Minnetonka, Minn.
  • Will Rogers Middle School, Lawndale, Calif.

Discuss in the Dremel forum at 3DPB.com.

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