Lately, spurred by Dr. Gary Stager’s prompt “…and then?“, I have been thinking about 3D printing and its role in K-5 education. After the initial novelty of downloading and printing models that others have made wears off, hopefully the teacher leads the class to creating their own models, using something like Tinkercad or Blokify. Students take to this 3D modeling software quite quickly and can turn out name tags, castles, and other objects of their own design.
I would argue that this approach to using a 3D printer in a classroom still falls short. Both teachers and students should think beyond the digital 3D model and printed object being the end product. Instead, the teacher should lead students through the process of identifying a product the class wishes to produce; designing and creating a tool to help in the production of this new object; and finally using the 3D printed tool to create something new. The 3D printed tool might be an object with which the student can make music, art, or something we have not yet even thought of.
I was delighted by the Cool Rubbings model from Thingiverse because this model could be used to make crayon rubbings. A 3D printed object like this becomes secondary to the art that is it used to create. The maker even included a blank tile to encourage people to create new funny faces or uses for the tool. I downloaded and printed the model twice on a MakerBot Replicator 2, once at low .3mm resolution, the second time at standard .2mm resolution. Both times, however, the tolerance was so tight that the tiles were difficult to get into the frame.
I imported the models into Tinkercad and remixed them to have less tolerance. You can open the models in Tinkercad, too, and remix them. Download them and print them to make your own crayon rubbing art!
I like the customizable possibilities of a 3D printed tool such as this and appreciate its open-ended nature. Any number of themes could be created for new plates.
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