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Thinking in 3D

Woodland students master new 3D printer

FROM LEFT, BENJAMIN COWEN, Avery Edwards, Myla Beauchamp, Alison Kayser, Katie Hartman, Gracie Hilyard and Ryan Mande hold up some of the models they designed with the new 3D printer at Woodland Elementary in Kingsford. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

KINGSFORD — A third-grader looks at a 3D printer and grasps the possibilities.

“I used Tinkercad,” Ben Cowen explained. “It’s fun to do because you can make and design stuff. I already have a ton of things on the laptop that I want to 3D print. I made a ton of things that connect together. You make them in two parts and connect them together. I made an iPhone holder, and on the bottom, I made a little hole for the charger.”

Thanks to a grant from GE Additive, Woodland Elementary third-graders are getting hands-on experience in problem-solving and designing skills with their new 3D printing program.

“A parent at STEM family night asked if I had heard of the grant,” said Jean Constantini, technology director at Breitung Township schools. “He is an employee of GE, so he was familiar with it. I found the website, and we applied for the grant.”

The grant provided the school with a high-end, $2,000 Dremel 3D printer and software from Makers Empire. Students use the programs to design 3D models, and any user in the school’s network can print to the 3D printer at Woodland.

ALISON KAYSER watches as Woodland Elementary’s new Dremel 3D printer creates a model designed in the third-grade computers class. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

While it is running, the print job can be monitored by teachers remotely through a web browser. “There are all these different components to it, and so the kids are now engineering ideas and solving problems to eventually print some products,” Constantini said.

“The kids love it,” computers instructor Aimee Tatangelo said. “As the technology teacher, it is amazing to see the excitement in the students as their designs come to life. I feel the 3D printing unit teaches skills that will prepare them to be successful in the 21st century; designing, collaborating, problem-solving, and troubleshooting.”

Tatangelo said it’s sometimes easier to stay out of the students’ way.

“Ben will just hop on, and his imagination lets him design anything he wants,” she said. “The program we are using teaches them all the tools. We go through and learn how to resize or flip objects, the basics, and once they complete those challenges they are able to create whatever they think of.”

They are hoping to expand the program to all students and teachers in the school, and eventually, any student or teacher who wants to 3D print will have the ability.

Constantini said GE is investing $10 million over five years in educational programs to provide 3D printers to primary and secondary schools, universities and colleges. Enabling educational institutions access to 3D printers will help accelerate adoption of additive manufacturing worldwide.

While having fun, familiarity with a 3D printer also gives the students an early boost in a booming industry, Constantini said.

“I have a four-year mechanical engineering degree, and now this technology is down to third grade. They are capable of doing it. It’s great,” she said. “Imagine what they can do when they get four years of college in.”

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