3D Printer Project Starters

3D Printer Project Starters
Cabinet of Curiosities

Here are a few ideas to challenge your students – but let their imagination be the driving factor. All of these ideas can be made more challenging by adding constraints and/or requiring more precision. Extend the learning opportunities by using the models created in other lessons or projects. Use a pedagogical strategy Gary calls “…and then?” to view your 3D prints as part of a continuum of interesting ideas, not as an end product. If you make an instrument, make music; if you make something that goes fast, measure its speed and make it go faster; if you need props for a school play, print them; if you design a monument for a local event, defend why your monument is the best representation of the event; if you make a design, can you make it better?

  • Design something for fun:
    • toy
    • statue
    • game pieces (i.e. Monopoly)
    • dice
    • pencil topper
  • Furnish a doll house.
  • Make something that makes music.
  • If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be? Design an action figure that shows off your awesome power.
  • Bling out your makerspace: wall mounts, tool holders, spacers, drawer labels.
  • Make an improvement to an everyday household object.
  • Build tools useful in other school activities – simple machines, models of cells, DNA, or math manipulatives for another teacher to use. Ask for feedback and make sure your objects are actually useful.
  • Create characters for a stop-motion video.
  • Build sculptures to which you can add light or motion.
  • Give your Barbie amazing bionic superpowers.
  • Your teddy bear needs shoes and a motorcycle helmet.
  • Design a model of your house, classroom, school, or local building.
  • Imagine what fossils of modern day plants or animals will look like.
  • Robots rule! Make a model of a robot that can perform a useful task.
  • Make a missing piece for a building set (LEGO, K’Nex, etc.)
  • Make items that show use of ratio, measurement, scaling, or geometry. Don’t forget that scaling doesn’t only mean making big things smaller, you can also make small things bigger, like bacteria.
  • Design cars, rockets, or boats and measure speed, launch height, acceleration, etc. Then make them faster, more reliable, and better. Is faster always better?
  • Replace missing or broken parts – cranks, knobs, cases, latches, holders, and stands.
  • Make a mysterious artifact from another time.
  • Design a small decorative item or gift:
    • nameplate in 3D
    • desk accessory
    • plaque
    • bottle opener
    • keychain fob
    • cell phone case
    • ear bud holder
    • luggage tag
  • Have a jewelry show – beads, bracelets, lockets, medallions, etc.
  • Investigate Cabinets of Wonder, the pre-cursor to the modern museum. Make a mini-museum full of 3D printed curiosities. Museums aren’t complete without descriptions of the items and their significance.
  • Invent a three dimensional symbol that conveys luck, empathy, respect, distress, sadness, etc.
  • Research the use of 3D printing for medical uses. What do you predict will become commonplace in the next few years? Design and print a model of a medical appliance, prosthetic, body part, etc. Defend your choice as being the most likely to change the world.
  • Build a 3D printed bridge. Test and make better. (For an extra challenge, require it to span an opening larger than the largest possible print size.)
  • Design a monument for a nearby park commemorating an event from local history.
  • Investigate ancient tools and instruments and make a working model of one.
  • Make props and accessories for the actors in a school play.
  • Build an amusement park, zoo, aquarium, or wild animal park.

Republished with permission of the author. Originally published at http://www.inventtolearn.com/3d-printer-project-starters/.


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Sylvia is co-author of Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, often called the "bible" of the maker movement in classrooms. Sylvia works in schools around the world to bring the power of authentic learning into classrooms, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects. Sylvia speaks, writes, and advocates for student-centered, project-based learning, gender equity in technology, computer programming, and life-long learning. For the past ten years, Sylvia was President of Generation YES, a non-profit with a mission of empowering young people to improve their schools and communities with modern technology. Previous to Generation YES, Sylvia was in charge of product development at several software publishers, designing and creating video games and educational software. Sylvia also had a career in aerospace engineering as a senior scientist on the GPS navigational satellite system research and development. She holds a masters in educational technology and a bachelors in electrical engineering. Along with Gary Stager, Sylvia facilitates the Constructing Modern Knowledge Institute every summer. Constructing Modern Knowledge, July 8-11, 2014, is a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in intensive computer-rich project development with peers and a world-class faculty. Inspirational guest speakers and social events round out the fantastic event. Pete Nelson, Edith Ackermann, Mitchel Resnick, and other expert visionaries (tba) are among this year’s guest speakers. Rather than spend days listening to a series of speakers, Constructing Modern Knowledge is about action. Attendees will work and interact with educational experts concerned with maximizing the potential of every learner. For more information, visit http://constructingmodernknowledge.com/.

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