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While 3D printing is gaining entry into a wide range of learning institutions around the world–and especially universities–many times the interest and subsequent curriculum begin when a 3D printer is housed in the office of a professor or the workshop of an advanced student who has taken an interest in the technology. The enthusiasm is contagious, and the ball starts rolling from there.

logo-retina (1)As the technology is becoming more mainstream, however, and different educational packages are available to schools, there is often one problem: teachers and administrators have no idea how to go from A to Z, starting with digital design and ending with operating and maintaining a valuable 3D printer. That’s an obvious issue to overcome once recognized, but certainly not a permanent hurdle to working on further instilling a new and very important component of STEM education.

Boston’s NVBOTS realized, upon beginning to work with an urban charter school in Massachusetts, The Sizer School, that there was a need to empower everyone in 3D printing in order for comprehensive learning to occur. NVBOTS, founded by a group of dedicated makers from MIT, has been a success story from their inception–with a focused commitment to sharing their expertise, quality products, and enthusiasm for 3D printing with the young innovators of the world. Not only that, but the NVBOTS team is dedicated to seeing that students from all backgrounds have an opportunity.

sizer-full-logo-320px_0The Sizer School is currently educating 370 students in grades 7-12, with nearly half qualifying for the free lunch program, as they come from homes in lower income brackets. Working with both the educators and the students at Sizer, NVBOTS started with a pilot program in the school. At first, there wasn’t anyone in the entire school with knowledge regarding 3D printing–from teachers to students.

They all learned together though, with the help of NVBOTS’ staff, and now the technology has become integrated on several different platforms throughout the school with the NVBOTS program which involves education modules geared toward STEM curriculum for the world’s next generation of engineers, scientists, designers, and far more.

“The Sizer School offers an interdisciplinary approach to education that is both inclusive and intellectually challenging,” said Linda Tarantino, Instructional and Technology Integration Coach at The Sizer School. “As we strive to inspire passionate and creative life-long learners, NVBOTS has been a true partner every step of the way.”

“In addition to bringing staff onsite to train everyone on the NVPro, while educating us on all of the great things 3D printing has to offer, they have taught our students so much more than 3D printing. They model what it means to be an engineer and create a technology start-up company.”

nvbots1Truly putting words into action, the NVBOTs team and curriculum has really allowed the students to take design and science concepts and put them into reality, as they have worked on integrating 3D printing into class projects which shows real-life uses for the technology, as well as allowing students to form a 3D printing club, offering a productive and fun after-school activity.

“NVBOTS is dedicated to inspiring young minds by exposing them to the experiential learning needed to excel in the world,” said NVBOTS CEO AJ Perez.  “We look forward to collaborating with The Sizer School on additional programs in the months ahead, creating valuable experiences that will make a lasting impact on student development and their ability to achieve personal greatness.”

Working the technology into class projects has produced some fun and creative results, as the NVBOTS team made a concentrated effort while teaching the educators right along with the students. This allowed them to give everyone as much free rein as possible in learning to innovate with the NVPro.

While working on an eighth-grade segment about Helen Keller, students used the NVPro 3D printer to make nametags in Braille. Seventh graders involved in creative writing were writing their own fairy tales, and to accompany them, they 3D printed bookmarks.

printerPlanning the curriculum was no fly-by-night operation as they worked the technology in through five phases.

The NVPro 3D printer, developed specifically for educational scenarios, is famous in that it is the first fully automated 3D printer with a cloud-based interface that allows prints to be sent automatically. The NBOTS team placed the printer in the school and training began for both students and teachers, with two teachers working as administrators and six students being given privileges as ‘student printer-technicians.’

The NVBOTS team made sure the 3D printer was heavily used in every period for 11th and 12th grade, with student technicians available to answer questions. In line with allowing the students some latitude in using the NVPro 3D printer, it helped to have a webcam set up for remote monitoring by the teacher administrator.

nvbots2To garner enthusiasm as well as empowering the students with certification and use of the 3D printer, students were informed that once they became ‘Tinker-certified’ after completing a tutorial and 3D printing a coffee mug, they would be able to use the equipment. They were free to make their own designs after that for 3D printing, and the general consensus in allowing the students so much latitude with the program was that it worked very well. They were also allowed to choose designs from outside sources like Thingiverse.

A common-core based program called Volume of a Box was developed by a teacher administrator and coordinated with 7th grade math teachers, and then eventually 8th grade as well. Consisting of three class periods full of activities, students learned to work in Tinkercad, as well as developing spatial and mathematical skills through design and 3D printing of a rectangular prism. This was a learning experience for both teachers and the students, who upon completion were able to forge ahead in printing other designs.

The 3D printer club was also established, allowing students to simply drop in and work on projects such as creating:

  • Heart pendants for Valentine’s Day
  • Replacement parts for broken plastic battery holders
  • Chess pieces
  • Small vehicles, including a multipart Starship Enterprise

With NVBOTS’ team background in engineering, it was not only a great idea but also a no-brainer for them to start an engineering class where students were able to make engineering projects like a scaled boat, as well as game pieces for board games they designed themselves.

What began as an idea and a pilot program turned into a full-fledged program of challenge, inspiration, and side-by-side learning for both teachers and students alike. Do you attend or work at a school where 3D printing classes are offered? Discuss the NVBOTS forum over at 3DPB.com.

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