Teachers from the Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern (DCP), a Detroit Public Schools Community District institution, learned the ins and outs of 3D printing in a May virtual workshop conducted by a student at Lawrence Technological University.
The technology, also known as additive manufacturing, creates three-dimensional objects out of plastics and other materials through depositing layers of the material. The printer that squirts out the plastic, which quickly hardens, is guided by a three-dimensional model created in computer software.
DCP @ Northwestern recently obtained a Flash Forge Finder 3D printer with plans of incorporating 3D printing technology into their classrooms. In order to help the school get started, LTU held the virtual workshop for the teachers who would benefit from the training and who plan to use 3D printing in their instruction. The workshop was led by LTU biomedical engineering graduate student and Marburger STEM Center Ambassador Ahron Wayne, who specializes in 3D printing and building microscopes.
Before the workshop began, teachers created their own accounts in software called TinkerCAD, an online 3D modeling program. The free program runs in a web browser and allows people to create their own models to be exported for 3D printing, or to use models pre-made by users from all over the world. By creating their own accounts, the teachers were able to create models in real-time while conferencing over Zoom. This allowed for a very hands-on approach, where teachers could easily follow Wayne’s instructions while having fun creating their own designs.
The workshop allowed for multiple interactive opportunities, including the ability to create a 3D model and receive advice from Wayne on how to improve it. Wayne used TinkerCAD in “teacher mode,” where he was able to share his screen so that all of the teachers participating could see him creating 3D models in real-time with verbal explanation. Wayne was also able to share any of the teachers’ screens to show examples or to provide constructive feedback to the teachers’ designs.
The teachers were eager to learn and excited to get creative with their own designs. By the end of the workshop, the teachers had a basic understanding of how to create and print their own 3D models, and were excited and optimistic about integrating the new technology into their own classrooms.
“While increasingly familiar to those in industry and higher education, 3D printing remains an enigma to much of the general public,” Wayne said. “I've heard the story over and over of libraries and schools getting 3D printers, but not really knowing how to use them, or design new objects to print. But fundamentally, a 3D printer is just like a hot glue gun that squirts plastic in the correct pattern. Once people hear that, and see how easy it is to model something new in TinkerCAD, their imaginations go wild for how they can use the technology to improve their lives."
Soon, DPS students will also be able to let their own imaginations go wild with the hands-on capabilities of 3D printing technology integrated into their everyday academic classes.