Our friends at Tower Bridge have kindly offered to share this blog with us about the ways in which they are utilising their Ultimaker 3D Printer. A big thanks to Sophie Jordan – Education and Marketing Assistant, Tower Bridge Exhibition – for sharing this with us.

We first purchased an Ultimaker 2 for Tower Bridge back in 2014 in order to develop an engineering and coding workshop for visiting school groups as part of our new learning programme. In this workshop, called ‘Crunching Codes and Raising Roads’, KS2 and KS3 pupils work in groups to learn exactly how our famous roadways (bascules) open by building a scale model of the Bridge using pieces printed on the 3D printer. These models have been a fantastic learning tool which has helped pupils unpack the complexities of Tower Bridge’s engineering and we’ve found that pupils love the hands-on nature of putting together a moving model.

After two years of running this session successfully and watching the 3D printer print out these models we wanted to see what else it could do! Our aim was to create a school session which used the printer in a different way: to help discover more about Tower Bridge and London as well as giving pupils an opportunity to design and make their own 3D printed model.

Our ‘Design the Skyline’ workshop, developed in partnership with London CLC, turns school pupils into architects by asking them to design a new landmark for the East London skyline. As most of the capital’s famous landmarks are visible from Tower Bridge’s highlevel West Walkway, the East Walkway’s view is, arguably, less interesting.

After having been led up to the Walkways to look at both views, pupils are given a quick introduction to SketchUp and work in pairs to design their new landmarks. A number of different 3D design programmes were considered but we felt that SketchUp could be picked up really quickly by the pupils and allowed them to design interesting looking landmarks relatively easily. Pupils are also given an introduction to 3D printing and can see the printer in action.

The pupils’ models are printed over the next few days and posted back to their school with a large image of the East London skyline so a display can be created for the rest of the school.

We’ve been running this workshop since late spring and are already receiving good feedback. One class used their final display as part of their school’s Art Week and another, having realised they had access to SketchUp at school, are planning to start using it in other lessons.

We’ve also learnt a lot along the way. We had a large number of failed prints after the first school session due to problems with holes in the designs but this has since been solved by using downloadable extensions such as Solid Inspector. Upgrading our printers to Ultimaker 2+ has also been really valuable as we’ve been able to use a larger nozzle size to speed up the printing. Our confidence has developed too and we now use the 3D printer to make resources for other activities – stencils for craft sessions in our monthly family activities have been particularly popular. I can’t wait to see what use we find for the 3D printer next!

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