Last summer, Draycott Primary School in Partnership with the Nottingham University Department of  Life Sciences “SpiderLab” led by Dr. Sara Goodacre, won a bid for a Royal Society Partnership Grant to set up the UK’s first “Spider School”. The aim of the Spider School project is to encourage students to develop and investigate a range of research questions spanning the disciplines of science, engineering, art and geography, all based around the topic ‘spiders and spider silk’. These findings will be presented in a multi-disciplinary “Spider School Showcase” research conference and exhibition where students will describe their work to their peers, teachers, STEM partner representatives and invited guests.

As part of the project CREATE Education supported Draycott Primary school with a free 3D printer loan to help them to complete one of the investigative elements of their project:

  • Replicating and testing the strength of spider web structures through a) the use of 3D printing and b) the use of rope in the outdoor learning space – (How strong are web structures? Does the way the spider spins the web make it stronger?)

The Digital Leaders have written and shared with us a summary of their experiences with the 3D printer.

Digital Leaders 3D Printer review

During November we had access to the most amazing piece of hardware a 3D printer which we used to support our Spiders project. To start with you design something using a 3D design programme, we used ‘Tinkercad’ and then you save it on a memory stick. Designing things was quite easy once we understood how to use Tinkercad and Mr Kane found us some spider examples. After that you put the memory stick into the printer and it turns the object into thousands of tiny little slices, and then makes it from the bottom-up, slice by slice. Those tiny layers stick together to form a solid object. Watching our objects grow from the ground upwards was amazing even though it often took over an hour to print something that was still quite small.

We created spider keys rings, spider webs, spiders in webs and even had a go at the school logo. The best thing we created was the spider on the web because it looked so realistic. There were lots of other things we wanted to try and create including spider dice but they simply took too long to print. We also had a lot of trouble at the start getting things to stick to the glass plate until Mr Kane started covering the glass base with Prit-stick first. This worked really well and the glue washed of the glass plate quite easily at the end.

Using the 3D printer helped us to develop our enterprise skills and we decided to use the things we have made as special gifts and rewards for those involved in our year-long Spider project with Nottingham University. We all now think we would quite like to get a job in computer design work and hope we can get the printer back again in the future to try and design other things and possibly get more people involved in using it.
Jessica, Zac, Evelyn, Lewis

The CREATE Education Project would like to thank Mr Kane and the Digital Leaders at Draycott Primary School for sharing their brilliant Spider Project and 3D printing experiences with us.

The Royal Society Partnership Grants Scheme awards grants of up to £3000 to schools to enable students, aged 5 – 18, to carry out science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) projects. Additionally they are looking to support projects on computing and data science.

Learn more about the Royal Society Partnership Grants scheme

In The Classroom

The spiders project is a really good example of how 3D printing can be used as a tool to support delivery of the science curriculum. Designing and 3D printing spiders webs and other structures that can subsequently be strength tested helps students to develop their practical investigation skills as well as their mathematical skills in designing the structures.

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