We came across Alex Martinucci through our CREATE Education community.  He epitomises the young maker movement that often miss out on valuable access time to technologies.  Alex has provided us with a superb blog about his experiences getting funding for 3D printers in education, and specific learning outcomes that have helped him progress towards a career working with technologies.

Hello again!

image002Hi all, I’m back with an update on our school’s 3D printing club. From where I left you last time, I was talking about modifying the CannyBots, but sometimes designing can be a tricky to do using the computer. As I mentioned in the last blog, our club is using TinkerCad because it is simple to use and has brilliant examples online of finished models which can be pulled apart to see how they were made.

Mr. Holmes and I thought that starting with a few fun student lead ideas is the best way to get used to navigating TinkerCad and understanding the basics of moving and joining parts. When students have this base understanding, it makes customising the CannyBots much easier.

The results weren’t the best, BUT did Luke Skywalker just start guiding proton torpedos into battle stars and battling Sith lords at the beginning? Nope! He worked hard and from that work eventually became a Jedi. (That’s right, last time it was Lord of the rings and today I’m going to try fit as many Star Wars references as I can, so get comfortable!)

image004You can see from the pictures, the designing taking place in the club. They were also shown the robots. The students are completing a worksheet made by Mr Holmes, which will help the students structure the design process.


image007The sheets make the students understand what each part does and what it is used for. Once they understand the basic anatomy of the car, they should be able to create new frames without leaving anything out. (Hopefully!)


Now, it’s not all work, we have fun with these droids too, especially when the students found the canny bots app on their phones. It allowed them to control the speed using the accelerometers.


The reason we want to push the designing aspect of these bots so much is because while it is all good fun to know how to use a 3D printer and print off pre made designs, it’s a whole new level to design your own with bespoke specifications. (Like the difference between just driving a pod racer and knowing how to build one.)


Here is a little gallery of models made by the students whilst they were learning Tinkercad:















(“oooh”’s and “ahhh”’s quiet down in the audience)

Shouldn’t be too long before the bots are on their way. Mr. Holmes has written up a quick summary of his lesson with the students. They focused on evaluating some of their prints to understand how to make them better for next time, so I give full credit to the next half of this blog to him.


Mr Holmes:

Lesson one:

This started with us introducing the project, letting the pupils have a little bit of a play on the robots and explaining our objectives. Next the pupils completed a worksheet that asked them to try and identify the various parts that make up the robot. We then discussed each component as a class to ensure everyone had the right explanation for each component.

We then moved on to dividing the pupils up into workgroups. Once the race teams had been formed we then asked them to brainstorm some possible names for their racing team. Once the names have been decided upon, the pupils were then tasked with designing a few mascot ideas ready for us to 3-D model them next session.

Lesson two:

This session was all about getting the pupils to understand the importance of 3-D modeling and CAD when using 3-D printing. It’s very easy to download a pre-made design and print it off but this soon becomes boring as it removes the creativity from the design process.

Getting students to understand virtual modeling can be quite challenging but we have found that using Tinkercad via a web browser allows them to practice at home and create virtual models very easily.

I showed them the basics on Tinkercad and asked them to complete the tutorials. They were then tasked with creating mascots for their racing teams. I did not give them much guidance on the limitations and capabilities of 3-D printers as I wanted to see them discover this first-hand through any failed prints.


Lesson three:

After printing all their mascots we sat down and evaluated each one. We looked at which ones were successful and why? Which ones did not work and why? This led us then to draw up a list of rules and guidance to help them effectively design for 3-D printing.

The students were then tasked with recreating their designs but this time evaluating them before they are sent to the printer to ensure that they are going to print correctly. The students were looking for spindly bits, objects floating in space, areas not touching the build plate, if any sections needed to be divided into different components to be assembled after the print and how easy it would be to remove any support material.

We then printed these redesigned mascots and for most of the class their prints were vastly improved. We then moved on to designing the customised elements for the Cannybot racers. The students are customising the front bumpers, the wheels and the tops of the casings. The tops of the casings are where the students are keen to add spoilers, drivers and air scoops.

Our next session will involve us jumping onto the computers again to design the various components and test printing them to see if they fit and function correctly.

This is where we part ways but I should be back soon. But I’m going to try get one more Star Wars joke in before I go and I’m going to make it a good one: (well its not that good but I just cant resist)


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