Teaching technology has been a blast at Fairhaven Middle School this year. A little coding (we used to call it “programming”), a little 3D design and printing, a little trebuchet and mousetrap car design and building.
I was excited that in the first semester we almost tripled the number of printing hours on the MakerBot 3D printer in the classroom. I have had to order 5 rolls of filament so far (if I recall correctly.) In any case I have not been able to keep up with student demand for 3D printed products.
When visiting the Seamonsters Robotics club at our local high school I saw some home-made 3D printers chugging along making parts for their competition robots. Sehome practical engineering teacher, Kevin Criez, told me they were designed by a local engineer. I found that our local makerspace (Bellingham Foundry) has been working in conjunction with a retired mechanical engineer, Jeff Kerr to produce these printer kits. For $350.00, you get all the parts and free advice and coaching from Jeff and other makerspace enthusiasts and space at The Foundry to assemble your printer.
I have been working on “my” two printers for two evenings so far. Frankly? This has been some of the best fun I have had in ages. I get to build my own 3D printers! Then they go into my classroom and kids will have access to printing on their own. We’ll have a battery of 3 printers (1 Makerbot Replicator II and 2 Kerrby’s – as Jeff’s printers are being called). My goal is to make the design and printing even more accessible by kids.
Right now I receive their files (made in Sketchup) and I export them to .STL format (using a free Sketchup extension). Then Makerbot prints directly from those files. I would like to stop being a bottleneck and have a “PrintMaster” in each class. A student whom I teach to use the printer and respects the technology who can coach other students to preparing and setting up their designs for printing.
This is getting such an enthusiastic response from students that we probably need some kind of after-school time for students to make designs and get them printed.
In the meantime, I am enjoying this at least as much as the students are!