Winners of Create to Educate Contest Teach Important Lessons Through 3D Printing

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There’s nothing like a good 3D printing competition to really bring out the creativity that exists in such abundance in this field. There are plenty of 3D printing competitions going on at any moment, but our favorites are those that are put on for a greater purpose, such as creating curricula for use in the classroom. In October, Pinshape, an always reliable source for a good contest, teamed up with MatterHackers and Ultimaker to launch the Create to Educate Lesson Plan Contest, which challenged participants to develop lesson plans that incorporate 3D printing in some way. The winner would receive an Ultimaker 3 3D printer, along with a MatterHackers MatterControl T7X and a spool of MatterHackers Pro PLA.

The contest ended on November 30th, and Pinshape received a tremendous number of brilliant, creative entries.

“The 80 lesson plans submitted for this design challenge will make a huge impact on teachers. Just a year ago the biggest question we’d get at trade shows for educators was ‘what’s a 3D printer?’ Now that they are more accessible for classrooms, the need we hear most is for lesson plans which align with CORE standards. The need to use 3D printers to make the stuff they have to teach anyway more engaging. 3D printing and design is great for that,” Mara Hitner, MatterHackers Director of Business Development, said of the contest.

The first place winner went above and beyond with his creativity and skillful use of 3D printing. Robert Hemlich submitted a lesson plan called “Modeling Topography and Erosion with 3D Printing.” He used PLA to 3D print a model of the Grand Canyon, using different colors to show the different layers of rock. He then used water soluble PVA to 3D print a River Valley that fits within the canyon. When water is poured over the PVA, it slowly dissolves, showing how erosion works and gradually revealing the canyon layers underneath.

Second place went to Chris Halliday, who 3D printed a model of an automotive alternator. Halliday showed an impressive thoroughness and love for his subject matter, submitting a 30-page lesson plan and quiz along with his entry. The project teaches students how alternators work and shows them how to make their own. We recently spoke to Halliday about his entry and his other work, and he commented on how he has taught himself a lot of what he knows, and wants to share that knowledge with others.

“When I designed these projects, my thoughts were to reach out to youth interested in automotive or interested in learning more about automotive with 3D printing,” he told us. “I think it’s tough, or nearly impossible, to have a single project that can appeal to everybody and so I focused on something I enjoy very much with the hopes of sparking some people’s interest.”

He certainly sparked the interest of the judges. Halliday won a $100 MatterHackers gift card and a 3D printing pen for his efforts.

Third place went to Theo Evans for his “Biomimicry – Natural Rocket Science” project. His lesson plan challenges students to research and design a rocket nose cone based on drag-reducing forms found in nature. He used a Formlabs Form 2 to 3D print several example nose cones.

“The natural world is abundant with sustainable solutions to the many-fold challenges of survival: from keeping cool to preventing the spread of disease, these are also problems that scientists and engineers struggle to solve on a daily basis,” Evans said in his project description. “Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature. The objective of this lesson is to teach students the value of studying nature in order to solve difficult engineering problems – introducing 3D printing as a transformative technology that unlocks the door to solutions that were in the past prohibited by the limitations of traditional manufacturing.”

Evans received a $50 MatterHackers gift card as the third place winner.

Honorable Mentions included Jacob Stanton for his Neutral Spine Teaching Aid; Rob Morrill for his Crumple Zone Crash Test Car; and Building a DNA Chain by Mario Melero. If you’d like to take a look at all of the entries, you can do so here. There’s plenty of educational material in all sorts of subject areas, so teachers should have plenty to work with if they’d like to use 3D printing in the classroom.

This contest’s judges are emphatic about the value of 3D printing in education, remarking:

“3D design and printing gives students access to real-world tools in the classroom. Students are empowered to design, make and share real-world solutions to authentic challenging problems,” said Josh Ajima, known online as @DesignMakeTeach.

“Access to 3D printing allows students the chance to bring their ideas and engineering designs to live. It gives students the opportunity to not just visualize their designs in the virtual world, but the real world as well,” said Matthew Hartman, Educational Content Manager at the NSTE.

“Pinshape, MatterHackers, and Ultimaker are helping fill the gap in 3d design lesson plans for K-12 educators, making it easier to integrate 3d printing. Pinshape community members continue to share high quality models with detailed objectives that align with state standards,” said Mark Simmons.
“I was so impressed by how cross-curricular these designs were.  These days, content can be blended. It might read like it’s STEM-oriented, but it’s also about communication, writing, and speaking. It might read like it has a history-focus or engineering-focus, but these artifacts and lessons can utilize informational reading as well.  I only wish the pie-chucker were life-sized!” said Heather Wolpert Gawron.

MatterHackers Minute showcases more from their perspective about the Create to Educate winners:

Pinshape will have another design contest coming up shortly, as well.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below. 

[Images via Pinshape]



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