Getting Students Engaged is as Easy as 1..2..3D



3D printing has come a long way. We can make model replicas of almost anything including prosthetic limbs and now with the use of hydrogels mixed with living cells, even human organs for transplant. Your students won’t have to go that far though to get engaged in a 3D project

Chris Gauvin, who is a grade 4/5 classroom teacher at Ecole Martha Currie Elementary, got interested himself in 3D printing four years ago. While watching some helping teachers experiment with it, he showed interest and wondered aloud about using it with elementary students, and soon he had a borrowed 3D printer for use in his classroom for three weeks

“After getting involved with it, I saw the huge potential for learning opportunities,” notes Gauvin. “So I, along with several of our district helping teachers, started researching what would be the best suited product for what our district needs would be.”  That research paid off as Gauvin was soon provided a 3D printer for his class.

The students were excited and interested as none had seen or used a 3D printer before. The process in using a 3D printer is to take a digital 3D model and turn the digital file into a physical object. Tinkercad was the online computer automated drafting program used to create the three dimensional items. Two projects were soon identified; one a personalized keychain name tag, and the other, a project on symmetrical snowflakes to tie in with a lesson on symmetry and measurement.

The level of engagement was high and students soon started to see their own designs coming to life and handling their tangible creations. “There was a great level of interest,” explains Gauvin. “The students got to see what worked and what didn’t and to figure out how to change it to get the result they wanted.”

It was challenging for the students to wrap their head around the multiple dimensions of the objects and they were reminded to look at it in all the different angles. Gauvin specifically picked the projects that weren’t going to work so they could analyze it and come up with new design processes. For instance, some of the letters would fall off the name tags, or they had to correct measurements for the proper snowflake symmetry once in 3D. This provided another level of problem solving and accomplishment as students revised and finalized their products’. Students were able to personalize their name tags even more by colouring the plastic once printed.

“Overall, it was quite easy and is still quite a novelty with the students,” explains Gauvin. “There was a bit of a learning curve but they supported and helped each other throughout the entire process.”

The learning curve for the teacher can be quite a bit more but Gauvin encourages you to initially start with a buddy or someone who knows the product. This will help get you up and running faster.

Generally, the printing doesn’t take too long, depending on the size of the project and how fast the printer can print. Gauvin’s name tags took about 30 minutes to one hour and the snow flakes about one to two hours, depending on the intricacy.

So when your school gets the opportunity to obtain a 3D printer, grab it and get your buddy to help you set it up. There’s lots of creating to get started on!

To find out more about everything 3D, register for IT4K12. The theme this year is “Learn & Work in 3D – Ideate, Innovate and Integrate”. Come to learn and share with your colleagues!