Creating objects will be more of a hands-on learning experience this year for students in Michael Waldschmidt’s Waupaca Middle School technology classes,
The school received a Waupaca Rotary Education Grant and purchased a MakerBot 3D Replicator Mini, a 3D printer.
“The students’ excitement for the 3D printer is incredible,” Waldschmidt said. “The first question the students ask as they walk into class is, ‘What project are we making today?’ This inquisitiveness is what learning is all about.
“Students will be able to design objects and parts using Google SketchUp, a free computer-aided design program, and then actually print their creations,” he said. “Students have been using SketchUp, but previously have had no way to actually build their designs.”
The 3D printer produces objects by melting and layering PLA filament, a type of thermoplastic extruded through a printer nozzle onto the build plate. Students will have the opportunity to build what they wish while learning the design principles needed to engineer the objects.
Small figures, key chains, jewelry and parts such as bolts can be printed. Objects can take from 10 minutes to many hours to print.
The school received the grant through the Waupaca Rotarians’ Education Grants Program, an annual project. Waldschmidt and Joan Holman, technology integrator for the Waupaca School District, wrote a grant in the fall and the printer was set up and began running last week.
“Middle school is the perfect time for students to be exposed to and explore new and emerging technologies,” Holman said. “Bringing 3D printing into the classroom exposes learners to the same cutting-edge technologies they’ll encounter in their careers. It gives them a jump-start on tomorrow’s challenges.”
Currently, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a popular way to build parts and objects in a variety of industries, including medical, aerospace, automotive, defense and metals manufacturing, according to Manufacturing.gov.
“The lessons we will be teaching with this 3D printer integrate math, design and engineering principles, fitting in nicely with our long-term goals of improving STEM education here at the middle school,” principal Ben Rayome said.
STEM education promotes the areas of science, technology, engineering and math education.
Waldschmidt and Holman plan on hosting demonstrations for Waupaca’s elementary school students as well.