With the new 3D printer up and running we had another challenge to face. How on Earth do you make something of your own? I posed this question to a few of my students and they ran with it. They looked at Design Something and 3Dtin. Both programs were accessible with a Chromebook and accounts could be created with their Gmail. They played with the options on their own and found that 3Dtin was easier to learn. They wanted their first creation to be a nameplate for my table. They figured out how to design one and quickly learned how to manipulate x, y, and z variables to create their vision. These kids showed me their design and begged me to print it. I was struck by fear once again!
I had no idea what I was doing. There was no formal lesson plan, just a spark that had ignited a fire of self-directed learning. The old question of, “how does this fit into curriculum?” came lurking through my mind. Do I really have the time to set aside to help these children build a nameplate? The pile of uncorrected work mounted on my table reiterated the negative thought pattern that was brewing within me. Everyday they asked me if we could print their design until I finally caved in, took a deep breath, and learned how to import their design into Makerware.
It was time to hit print once again. The build was to take over an hour. The boys who created the nameplate gave up lunch and recess and we watched the printer build layer by layer. We were in a state of disbelief as we saw letters begin to form. We were confident that the build was going well. I stepped out of the room, the boys left for another class, and I returned to a frozen Makerbot!
Ughhh! How could this have happened? It must be the Makerbot’s fault, or so I thought. I waited until the kids came back and broke the news that their design was not meant to be. Problem solving was the furthest thing from my mind. However, my kids knew better. One of them came up with the idea to print a pre-made design again. If it worked, it would prove the Makerbot was not the problem. If it didn’t work, we had bigger issues. The pre-fab design printed in perfect perfection. The kids kept brainstorming and took a look at their design. I started to look at what had happened too. After 24 hours I realized that my computer had gone to sleep ending the communication to the printer. Human error had caused the disruption.
The spark was ignited once again and we were all on board to go for the first real build…take 2. This time we learned how to resize the design so that we could print a smaller version. That way if it failed, it wouldn’t be long before we could find out why. We had success. My nameplate came out perfectly…mini-size.
The lesson I wanted my students to learn was how 3D printing software worked. I guess sometimes the best lessons come from the unexpected. We have all learned that we must always remember to try and try again!