From the Teacher
My students absolutely love their MakerBot 3D printer we received as a result of your generosity, encouragement and enthusiasm for supporting science education in our 7th grade Brooklyn classroom. My scientists-in-training take great pride in the ownership of this incredible machine, have grow immensely in their understanding of 3D printing (most of them had never even heard of 3D printing prior to the MakerBot's arrival in our classroom), and are becoming increasingly more skilled 3D designers and modelers. The MakerBot has been incredibly motivating to my students as it will actually print whatever three-dimensional objects they are compelled to design, first on paper and second on a computer 3D modeling program, a process fueled primarily by imagination and creativity, and a little mathematics and drafting.
It has been a rewarding teaching and learning experience for me to witness the ease with which my students grasp the technology of 3D design. I taught them the basics of operating each of two design programs (123d Design and Google software), and within minutes my students were dramatically more skilled and confidant 3D modelers and designers than me, their teacher! As an adult with no computer modeling background, I found myself frustrated at times trying to figure out how to operate each of these programs. My small after-school STEM club students were the first to learn the basics of these programs; to my pleasant surprise, my students quite quickly became teachers to me. They learned to use SketchUp first, and loved its extremely intuitive commands and operations. After I learned that SketchUp projects are often not recognized (and therefore not printable) by our MakerBot, I taught them the basics of a second 3D modeling program called 123d Design. Although the two modeling programs are completely different, my students were quick to become competent in each, and the primary challenge has now become reigning in the explosion of creative projects I am presented with on their computer screens. During this design stage I have students shouting my name constantly, eager for me to view their work-in-progress project on their laptop screen. In many cases the initial paper-drawn objects my students had fully intended to design were tossed out for bigger, brighter ideas unplanned until they interfaced with the 3D modeling software"I have witnessed many students, while in the middle of drafting a design on the computer, have a sudden 'aha' moment, then open up a new 123d Design window and begin a new project. Lack of creativity is not a problem I have encountered in this unit.
As my students have begun (because we still have so much work to do with design and print work!) to grow their computer modeling skills, they have also grown their self-confidence, curiosity, patience and persistence. I have a couple of 7th graders who became so good at using 123d Design, that the rest of my students tend to seek their help and support, resulting in near constant collaboration between my students, and allowing me to feel much more like a facilitator of learning than a teacher instructing. Their motivation and ability to quickly acquire technology skills is truly a testament to the importance of giving children the tools and experiences they need to be successful, capable and confident scientific thinkers and creators in our society today. While all of my students have not yet completed their designs and printing projects, every single one of them is on the edge of their seat in anticipation of their project being a 2-3 hour work in progress on the printer.
They literally can't take their eyes off the printer while it is in the middle of printing a 3D project (the UV lights and extraterrestrial sound effects aide in the printer's magnetizing effect). I am so grateful that my students this year, and for every year to come, have the opportunity to design and build 3D printing projects, thanks to each and every one of you!
From the Students