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Can 3D-Printing and Computer Aided Design be of value in the Contemporary Urban Elementary School Curriculum?
The answer is a definitive YES!
During the past 4 weeks we tested this hypothesis as follows:
MacGyvrBot, a Personal Manufacturing Robot (also known as a table-top 3D-Printer) and Skip Meetze (both affiliated with INTERLOCK) volunteered to be part of the team teaching 4th, 5th and 6th Graders at School No. 52 in the Rochester City School District. The 4 weeks of Tech Camp ran 3 mornings per week. Michael Slade (another volunteer) and Susan Reuter (the teacher) rounded out the instructional team, and 20 students developed their skills at rapid prototyping while having fun learning some principles of physics.
The students each constructed an America’s Cup Toy Boat Kit (an STL file for the design can be downloaded at America’s Cup Toy Boat Kit by MacGyvrBot – Thingiverse) with soda straws and parts made on a Printrbot LC (Printrbot LC (v2) | printrbot). Then they conducted a “shoebox regatta” where the sailboats were each sailed in a plastic shoebox half full of water. The boats successfully (1) sailed on a reach (with wind from the side) (2) from one end of the box to the other, (3) without touching the side of the box, and (4) under the power of a student gently blowing through a straw from the side of the box. This activity taught the students the basic principles of sailing while they developed confidence in their new skills of measuring materials (the straws) and assembling rapid prototypes (the boats) as MacGyvrBot chugged out the plastic parts right before their eyes.
At the end of the camp, students evaluated their experience by (anonymously) rating some of the lessons presented.
The Students’ ratings clearly show that using the 3D Printer and CAD are at the top of the list of things they would like to do again.
A warning about Tinkercad:
There were special work-around requirements that we encountered for safely using the current version of Tinkercad with young students, and they will be further discussed in a later posting. Tinkercad is resident on the internet cloud and not on the local computer, so continuous adult supervision is required (with an adult logged into the website) for Tinkercad to be safely used by kids (else the child’s access to sharing on the internet will be unsupervised). Autodesk, the new owner of Tinkercad, is working on eliminating this requirement.
Parents and teachers, stay tuned…
More about what we learned from participating in the Tech Camp will be discussed in later postings. One of the neat things about rapid-prototyping in the classroom is the ease with which teachers, parents and designers can share their designs and ideas with each other.
Interlock brought five demonstrations to our table at the Rochester Museum & Science Center Friday, July 19, 2013.
This was noon to 4 for the Make It! installment of their summer Family Fridays series.
From left to right, we see the MacGyverbot Printrbot LC generously lent for this demonstration but often seen in operation at Interlock, the Interlock Huxley RepRapPro 3D printer, a blue and white lunch-sized slow cooker keeping some Polycaprolactone (PCL) hand-moldable and 3D-printable thermoplastic (previously) warm and ready to try for free-form molding, the shoebox regatta demonstration (with special guest Mr. Jaws!), and at the far edge, a solderless breadboard with a temperature comparator demonstration featuring two LM35 temperature sensors picked up recently from College Home Hardware in Toronto.
We shared that portion of the first floor with some folks from Greater Rochester Robotics, who brought the robot from their most recent FIRST Robotics Competition season, Ultimate Ascent. They were letting visitors move the robot around the floor and occasionally launch a plastic flying disk or two.
It wasn’t quite the battle of the bots, but a couple of times the ‘bot got up a good head start and whacked into the front of our table, sloshing around the water in the PCL crock and the regatta box. Midway through, such a collision might have had a role to play in loosening up the Huxley’s X-axis drive gear (now since fixed), at which point we switched from printing in silver-gray PLA (polylactic acid) on the Huxley to printing in fluorescent yellow ABS (acrylonitrile/butadiene/styrene) on the MacGyverbot. This led us to discover that kids love them some bright plastic sharks.