Campus spaces are filled with opportunities for functional 3D prints that students and teachers can create.
Like many teachers, I’m setting up my classroom and getting ready to welcome students. As I do so, I keep a part of my mind in the background asking, “How could 3D printing enhance the room?” A quirky mental habit, but one that yields some fun projects. While this is a particularly good time of year to make these discoveries, really any time is a good time for functional 3D prints that you or your students design.
|Want to get ideas for using Codeblocks to make a cup like the peg board one above? Have a look at one approach I took in this project.||
Educators and/or students might tour the room and ask questions about problems and opportunities:
- What needs better holding or storage?
- Is there helpful signage we could print?
- Could we add functional art to the room?
- Are there any useful tools we can design?
- How about specialized containers?
Want to go deeper? Solving practical classroom needs with 3D printed solutions is a perfect opportunity for students to employ the design thinking process. They can conduct an assessment to understand needs, define the problem, ideate possible solutions, prototype a model, and refine as needed. [Here's an example lesson with resources on using design thinking to find solutions to pollution.] Students can go to a variety of different spaces on campus and apply this process.
Students might interview:
- A facilities team member
- Someone on the kitchen staff
- The front desk staff
- A teacher who works with younger students
This is a great chance to practice real empathy and listening skills to ensure that the design is based on authentic needs.
I wanted to give this plant a little boost both to make sure the counter didn’t get wet and to provide it more light. I used Codeblocks for the design, but it would be easy to make with the 3D editor, too.
Students can practice precise measurement skills when designing something like a switch plate cover.
Pro tip: Test it first
A thin 3D printed test, a cardboard test cut from an exported SVG file
Often times, functional prints must fit precisely. It can be frustrating to spend printing time and resources on a full version that’s not quite right. You might try:
- Printing just the key part of a design to test fit
- Printing a very thin version that will fabricate quickly
- Exporting the design as an SVG in order to paper cut on a plotting cutter and test fit
The custom trays in this toolbox sewing kit have curved bottoms to make getting needles out easier.
Some students had a tough time understanding how Sphero robots are oriented, so rings like these helped them along.
There are two desks in my room with adjustable heights, but no special wrench for the adjustment point. A pair of calipers and 3D printing to the rescue!
How about greeting campus guest speakers with student-made name badges for their visit?
A library door sign encouraging guests to pull a door that looks like it wants to be pushed, plus signs welcoming people at two maker spaces.
Here is my Tinkercad playlist of tutorial videos.
If you enjoyed this column or tried this with students, please share your feedback and creations! What would you like to see more of? What works well? Feel free to contact me on Twitter or my website with your questions, suggestions, or ideas for future content.