Ohio Teacher is Teaching Game Design with 3D Printing: Comes up with Incredibly Inventive 3D Tic-Tac-Toe

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tictactoe3When I think back to my childhood, the most fun I had did not come from my vast collection of Nintendo games, but rather from my equally impressive selection of board games. It wasn’t Super Mario Brothers, Double Dragon, or Legend of Zelda that kept me busy on a rainy day, but rather Monopoly, Scrabble, Shoots and Ladders, and Tic Tac Toe. These were games that required strategy and smarts, while letting our whole family interact together at once. Board games won’t ever die out, no matter how incredibly realistic video games become, because they provide a fun factor not available through their electronic counterparts.

One middle school teacher at Centerburg Middle School, in Centerburg, Ohio, named Chad Kuhn, is also a big fan of the more traditional board games. Kuhn, in fact, is teaching a new course, called ‘Evolution of Games’ to 8th and 9th graders at the school. Does this not seem like the best class ever? Well the fun doesn’t end there.

“Students study games, the cultures that played them, then recreate and play the games, sometimes tweaking the rules to try to improve game play,” Kuhn tells 3DPrint.com. “The course is an 8th or 9th grade course designed as an intro computer class, leading to electives in 3D design, game design, programming and screen writing. Our school had recently gotten grants for the course from Zulama and for a MakerBot 5th Gen Replicator.”

Growing up, Kuhn always enjoyed playing Tic Tac Toe, but like all things, it got boring after a while. So instead of giving up the game, he decided to begin playing ‘Super Tic Tac Toe’ with his own rules, on a 4×4 grid and a 3D Tic Tac Toe board drawn on paper. He realized that having an actual 3-dimensional board would make this game so much more fun, so this became the first project undertaken in his new class.

3D Printed 3D Tic Tac Toe

3D Printed 3D Tic Tac Toe

“In an effort to demonstrate creativity in game making/modification and how to use the Replicator, I designed the 3D Tic Tac Toe board,” Kuhn tells us. “I sent my first design to the printer, with the three-tiered board being built in one step by the MakerBot. In a mere 22 hours and 6 minutes I would have a game board.”

tictactoe1The students in the class have gotten a kick out of the newly created rendition of the age-old game that they are all very familiar with. However, like all new games, new rules need to be applied. Kuhn tells us that they have had to alter the game play as they learn the ins and outs of the game.

“First we decided that the very center spot was too advantageous, so we banned using it,” explained Kuhn. “Then more tricks of play were discovered, so that the player going first has to make an egregious mistake to lose. Just yesterday two 7th graders played and decided to reverse the goal: the first player to make three in a row loses. (The person who goes first will now lose by their last turn if they play a perfect game, but the boys don’t know that yet.)”

Another issue that the class has found with the game is that it can be difficult to place pieces in the center of the board. To counter this problem, they have decided to design 3D printed tweezers that will help aid in the placement of these pieces during game play.

To design the game, Kuhn used TinkerCad, which took approximately 5 hours including the initial design and subsequent redesign. It was actually his first 3D project, and he says that it gave him insight into the entire process, and allowed him to learn how to “coach his students through the creation of 3D items that can solve problems for them.” This isn’t the only game being designed in Kuhn’s class. One student has created a ‘Game of Go’ board including pegs and holes.

This goes to show that with the increasing awareness of 3D printing come new potential courses that schools around the world will come up with. The creation of these new courses, like those started at Centerburg Middle School, allows for students to have a more hands-on, interactive, fun, and — most importantly —  educational experience, though the use of this new technology.

What do you think? Do you like what this middle school is doing? Combining game making, 3D design, and thinking skills? Discuss in the 3D Printed Tic Tac Toe forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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