At CREATE education, we don’t just loan 3d printers, 3d scanners, or vacuum formers to schools, colleges, or universities. We will loan our technology to anyone who works within the education sector – allowing young people to access this innovative technology in whatever setting is appropriate to them.
Just before the pandemic, we loaned a 3d printer to James at Tameside Libraries to bolster his already popular 3d printer workshops. Read about the project from James:
3D Printer Loan Project Aims
As part of a Greater Manchester Combined Authority STEM activity pilot scheme, we aimed to run a series of introductory workshops in January and February 2020 in order to encourage interest in the Library’s 3D printing facilities and expose library users to a technology they may not be familiar with.
The aim was to run 3 sessions with children aged 10-16, to take them through the process of designing something in 3D on a computer to having the physical object come out of the printer.
3D Printer Loan Project Outline
After agreeing to take part in the GMCA STEM activity pilot scheme, I was keen to put the Library’s existing 3D printer to use but thought it would be beneficial to have an extra machine for the month in order to maximise the visibility of the printing and drum up interest in the workshops. As such, I put in a request to The Create Education Project to borrow an extra Ultimaker 2+ for a month.
The next step was to come up with a plan for the sessions. I’d been made aware of Tinkercad by a colleague and thought it best to familiarise myself with the 3D printing process before attempting to pass that knowledge on to a group of children and young people. This was the first main hurdle, as I was completely unfamiliar with how to go about it. Eventually, using Tinkercad and the instructions which came with our Ultimaker 2+ connect, I managed to teach myself some rudimentary 3D design and printing skills.
I enjoyed the tutorials on Tinkercad and thought they’d be an ideal starting point for a 3D printing session as it takes you very quickly from selecting and moving objects to having a design that can be printed.
Following this, I put a very simple lesson plan together which began with an introduction to how the 3D printer worked. I took part in some STEM activity training as part of the GMCA pilot scheme run by the Science Museums Group which was a great help in planning the workshops. The workshops were scheduled and advertised and filled up within 24hrs; with 12 booked for each 90-minute session.
The structure of the session started with me showing them some examples of things we had already printed and asking them if there were any clues in the structures/textures to how the printer made them. This got them thinking about how it could work and why certain objects looked the way they did. I had a couple of prints that used larger layer heights, were stopped partway through the print to show the infill, or had some thready overhanging sections to act as clues. While we were discussing this I had a couple of prints going to demonstrate how the printer turned the filament into the object. It was interesting to hear the ideas that the children came up with and guide them to the correct answer by pointing out different parts of the different examples.
“Borrowing the Ultimaker 2+ from CREATE Education has been excellent. Having the extra machine has made explaining the process and producing the prints much easier and less time-consuming. It also helped introduce a lot of children who wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to a new piece of technology. Seeing them get engrossed in designing something and be mesmerised by the printing process was exactly the outcome I was hoping for. ”
Having it out in the library for people to see as it prints has generated a lot of interest in 3D printing and hopefully sparked some creativity and interest in some of the library users.
The second part of the session was getting all the participants going on the Tinkercad tutorials. The ‘Classroom’ function on Tinkercad was excellent for this as I’d been dreading having to set everyone up with an individual account. Thankfully this was avoided. I instructed them to begin with some of the basic tutorials and then move on to one of the ‘Projects’ when they felt more comfortable.
This is where I encountered my second slight issue. I hadn’t taken into account that some of those taking part may have never used a mouse and keyboard before. In both the first and third session I had one participant who had never used a mouse before and as such had a lot of difficulties navigating in three dimensions on Tinkercad. Thankfully the public PCs in the library have touch screens which alleviated some of the problems but not all. We were, however, with a little creative thinking and adaptation, able to get them designed without too much difficulty. In the end, I had to do some straightening and editing to their designs that they couldn’t do due to their inability to look at their designs from certain angles but these were minor.
I left their final design up to them but encouraged them to make something along the lines of a keyring or something else with their name on. Many settled on using the keyring tutorial design while others customized it or made completely original creations. With these original designs, another issue arose when explaining why some things couldn’t be 3D printed due to small detail or large overhangs, etc. It was a tricky concept to get across but didn’t seem to impact the children’s design choices.
3D Printing Workshop Impact
In the end, we had a few keyrings, some luggage tags, a rocket man, a couple of nameplates, a spinning top/UFO, and an arcade machine from the three sessions. There was some disappointment that we wouldn’t be able to print everything there and then due to the time it takes but I agreed to have them done ready to collect the following week in a colour of their choice.
Everything came out pretty well with only one or two slight faults on some of the more complex prints and when they collected them, the children seemed delighted with the results.
Outside of the workshops I ran, the response to the 3D printers has been excellent. As I was constantly printing things for a few days after the sessions, members of the public were keen to see what I was doing, how it worked, and whether they could have a go. We’ve had requests for regular 3D printing workshops from both adults and children and I’m about to put together a crib sheet for staff and a ‘how to’ guide for the public to give them the steps they need to teach themselves how to 3D print.
Thank you for sharing your project with The CREATE Education Project. Your generosity in sharing your work with our community will help other educators and many other students to directly benefit.