3D Printing to Learn: Winners Announced for Envision the Future Design Challenge


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After the stunning success of the Within Reach 3D Design Challenge brought about impressive winning designs in 2016, e-NABLE, MatterHackers, and Pinshape wanted to keep going, and see what would happen with new challenges that pushed the maker community to find ways to improve the lives of others. The three teamed up with LulzBot, and launched the Envision the Future Design Challenge just a few short months ago, with the focus on helping the blind, visually impaired, and tactile learners of the world. Challenge participants were asked to create 3D printable designs for a tactile educational model to be used in a classroom for any age group, or an assistive device to make daily life easier for a visually impaired person. As my grandfather was blind, and my mother is visually impaired, this contest is pretty near and dear to my heart.

The contest ended on May 8th, and e-NABLE has just announced the winners of the Envision the Future Design Challenge.

e-NABLE wrote, “The Maker Community delivered once again, and while we had numerous designs that were entered into the contest, there can only be 3 ‘Winners’ in each category for prizes…but there are so many wonderful and helpful designs that have been created and shared freely, that I do hope you take a few moments to go visit and see all of the entries and perhaps even print a few out and take to your local Retirement center or schools!”

All winners can visit Credly to claim their winning digital badges; participants can also claim badges at Credly.


USA Braille Map: Feel The World

The first place winner in the Under 18 category is samsuchin’s design, USA Braille Map: Feel The World. The map, easily printable in the classroom, gives visually impaired students the opportunity to get a real sense of the shape of American states.

“With the USA Braille Map the visually impaired can now comprehend the states in the USA,” saumsuchin explained. “This tool can be used perfectly in the classroom for education study, or even people who want to have a new hobby. Each state has their two letter abbreviation in braille and every state border has different elevations so the user can get a better understanding of the territories for each state. As an 8th grader throughout middle school i have taken countless numbers of geography test. And some one who is visually impaired, should not be held back to have the same experiences and knowledge as anyone else.  So what better way to achieve this with the power of 3D-printing, the opportunities it can offer to the visually impaired is astounding.”

samsuchin won three spools of MatterHackers PRO Series PLA, a MatterControl T10, and a LulzBot Mini 3D printer.

SpottyX Braille Multiplication Educational Tool

Robert van Zyl’s design for the SpottyX Braille Multiplication Educational Tool, to help visually impaired students practice multiplication in a tactile fashion, won second place in the Under 18 category. He won a $100 MatterHackers gift card, and a Crafty 3D Printing Pen.

“As a sophomore in high school, I think it is safe to say that in some form, multiplication lies at the heart of our everyday lives,” van Zyl said. “We use multiplication in every aspect of our lives, including anywhere from determining how much three apples will cost at the grocery store to finding out how much a 3D printed model of a certain size would cost in terms of the PLA used. What if we could give the next generation a head start in the realm of multiplication, more specifically the visually impaired population? After some rethinking and tinkering, I had finally come up with a design that functioned as a usable tool that helped visually impaired students learn and practice multiplication. I wanted a tool that was easy to use and also effective at teaching multiplication. I believe that this simple tool with have a major impact on the way visually impaired students in elementary school learn multiplication. By allowing students who are tangibly inclined to feel and play with this model, I believe that this combination between math and a tangible model will accelerate the students learning and give the future generations of visually impaired students a head start in their math.”

Music For All

Pinshape user SebDrummer took third place in the Under 18 category with Music For All, which allows musicians to really feel music, as opposed to just listening to it.

“Simply place the different musical symbols in the grid (26 characters per line) width of an A4 sheet of paper, with an assembly system like a puzzle. The parts have chamfers so as to be held in the holder just by a fairly light support of the fingers on each piece laid. The support can be taken and lifted without the parts falling. It is easy enough to remove them from below when you want to write another musical score. A line generally corresponds to a measure of music,” SebDrummer explained.

SebDrummer won a $50 gift card to MatterHackers.


Rubik’s Cube Braille Tiles

The ingenious Rubik’s Cube Braille Tiles design, by gorgesjonathan, won first place in the Over 18 category. gorgesjonathan won a LulzBot TAZ 6 3D printer, a MatterControl T10, and three spools of MatterHackers PRO Series PLA, all of which I’m certain he’ll be sharing with his design partner.

“My oldest daughter (9 Years old) and I designed and assembled these braille tiles that can be glued to a Rubik’s Cube,” gorgesjonathan explained. “I work with the blind professionally in an education environment. Following the idea of Universal Design (Example – Curb cuts help people using a wheelchair, but also parents pushing a stroller) I try to create things that a sighted person and a person who is blind can work together on.  If someone is color blind they can also use different color plastic to accommodate for the colors they can’t differentiate. What makes our design unique is we use color filament so a sighted person can work together with a person who is blind. The next feature is we added an orientation line at the bottom of each tile. This allows as the cube is turned that the braille user know were the bottom of each tile is.”

Rotational Line Graphing Tool

The second place winner in the Over 18 category, a Rotational Line Graphing Tool, was designed by Justin Larson, and helps students learn algebra: the line can move and rotate, to demonstrate how different values actually change the equations.

“The rotational graphing tool consists of a coordinate plane with grooves running through the x-axis and the y-axis. In these grooves, a line can be inserted. This line can be rotated and maneuvered up and down the axes,” Larson said, “Essentially, this tool helps the user understand how the slope of lines can be manipulated, in addition to how x-intercepts and y-intercepts can change the properties of a function.”

Larson won a $100 MatterHackers gift card and a Crafty 3D Printing Pen for his design.

Tactile Circuit Blocks

Mike_Curtis won third place, and a $50 MatterHackers gift card, in the Over 18 category for his Tactile Circuit Blocks design, which teaches basic circuitry to both visually impaired and sighted students.

“Reflecting back on my own experience of education I considered topics that are relatively abstract but can be demonstrated well practically,” Curtis explained. “Electronics and particularly the fundamentals of simple circuits seemed like the obvious choice as concepts such as complete circuits, voltage and current can seem abstract if you were not able to see circuits diagrammatically. Practical demonstration can involve ‘fiddly’ bread boards, loose wires / batteries and often bulbs (offering no feedback to the blind). Each of the blocks is standardised with tactile symbols on each with braille descriptions on the main components. Initially I ran wire through the blocks to pass current and test the concept, but with the final blocks I used conductive filament (Proto-Pasta) removing the need for additional wires in the connector blocks.”

Many innovative and helpful designs were created for the Envision the Future Design Challenge, but there could only be so many winners. However, there were several Honorable Mention designs listed, including:

Visit the Pinshape gallery to check out all of the other amazing assistive tools and educational models for the Envision the Future Design Challenge.

Even though the contest is over, that doesn’t mean the designs have to stop! Just share your design, using the #envisionthefuture hashtag, and it will be added to the Pinshape repository. Then, when people search for new 3D printable tools for the visually impaired, they can find your design.

What do you think of these designs? Share your thoughts in the Envision the Future forum at 3DPB.com.


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