Fourth Grade School Project Takes on Another Dimension as Dad Helps with 3D Printing Historic California Mission

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Troy Peterson

In elementary school, we all had to make a diorama in a shoebox that depicted a scene from one of our favorite books; for the life of me I can’t remember which book I chose. That was the big project of the year, the one that all the students took home and begged their parents to help them with; of course, some of the more “hands-on” parents took things too far and just did the diorama themselves. Most every year in school there was a big project like this: in sixth grade, we studied the medieval times and asked our parents to help us make castles, and in eighth grade, we wanted our parents to help with our big family tree project.

Naturally, when Troy Peterson’s fourth grade daughter came home wanting some help with her school project – building a model of a California mission – he jumped right in. But as Peterson works for BJB Enterprises, which manufactures and supplies epoxy, thermosetting polyurethane, and silicone systems and partners with Costa Mesa-based Airwolf 3D from time to time, his daughter’s project was surely going to be on another level: a 3D printed one.

His daughter’s assignment was to build a model of the historic Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, founded in 1771 by Junipero Serra and well-known for its eye-catching buttresses and unique “bell wall” with six mission bells. Peterson knows what he’s talking about when it comes to mold making, 3D printing, and casting (his Thingiverse name is MacGyverDad), so instead of going with a more typical route, like using cardboard and sugar cubes to build the model, he decided to help his daughter build a 3D printed model of the mission.

First, his daughter learned a little bit about the occasional fruitless efforts that come from a very specific Internet search, as they searched online for models they could use as a jumping-off point. Aside from a few mission projects on Thingiverse and some SketchUp architectural models, there wasn’t much out there, so Peterson realized that he and his daughter would have to design their own mission model.

First, he taught his daughter how to design the 3D model in Tinkercad. Now, you may think that Peterson is bordering on one of those parents who just takes over the project for their child, but having some experience in recently learning the program myself, I can attest that it is easy enough for a fourth-grader to master. Kid-friendly design programs are becoming more popular as 3D design is coming to the next generations, often with projects supported by parents.

Peterson notes on Thingiverse that this project was, “done by my daughter with technical support from Dad.”

Once Peterson and his daughter completed their design, the mission model was 3D printed on an Airwolf 3D AXIOM Direct Drive 3D printer. To make the model look more realistic, the two used a variety of Airwolf 3D materials. While PLA was used for the majority of the print job, Peterson used LayBrick, which features a stone-like texture, to simulate the red roof of the mission, and PETG material to 3D print the mission bells.

“Most parts are printed with PLA and the roof was done in LayBrick for stain-ability,” Peterson explains on Thingiverse. “Printed with 2 perimeters and low resolution for speed and added texture. The LayBrick is very brittle so only used it on the roof.”

I suspect the next part of the father-daughter project was the most fun: decorating the mission model with miniature grass, plants, and even a figurine. They used Elmer’s glue, sprinkled with sand, to make the walkway, and 3D printed a tiny fountain, using Water Clear casting polyurethane (with an added bit of blue dye) to simulate running water.

“We decided to go with a simple front facade instead of a full building for time/material constraints,” he explains of the project.

The mission looks like it would fit in well with Dremel’s 3D printed London miniatures, or the Ittyblox 3D printed Flatiron Building miniature. If you’re interested in making your own 3D printed model of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, you’re in luck, because Peterson shared their design on Thingiverse. It’s not the first time we’ve seen 3D printing used to help make a school project really stand out, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. Discuss in the MacGyver Dad forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: Airwolf 3D]

 

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