TENNESSEAN: Kids get creative with 3-D printers

Originally published in the Tennessean. To view the article in its entirety, please click here

 

As a high school student, James Anderson built Pinewood Derby cars in woodworking class. Decades later, he’s teaching high school students to create similar structures, but instead of demonstrating hammers and nails, he directs students to press “print.”

Antioch High School students are conceptualizing, designing and building carbon dioxide dragsters — model vehicles similar to the derby cars of yesteryear — using the school’s 3-D printer.

“If you can create a design for it, you can print it,” said Anderson, pointing at objects around the room, from paperweights to phone cases. “Once you upload a design image, the printer sections it out and builds layer on layer until the structure is complete. Our 3-D printer can build a 10-inch-long dragster in about six hours.”

Engineering students are working in teams to design and build the dragsters, and the project will culminate in a classwide race. The 3-D printer is not just used by engineering students, however.

In a cross-curricular project dubbed “Antioch Motors,” engineering students are working with digital-design, automotive and math students to develop a hypothetical large-scale car design. Students have access to the 3-D printer during several phases of the project: from conceptualizing to sketching to creating the physical models and detailing mechanical portions.

“The students are excited to get their hands on the 3-D printer,” said Anderson. “It’s helping build enthusiasm for fields like engineering.”

Practical application

Stratford STEM Magnet High School also houses a 3-D printer, and students are developing practical as well as creative uses for the tool. When broken knobs made it difficult to change the temperature on some classroom heating and air units, Stratford engineering students fired up the 3-D printer to make replacements.

“The sophomore students in the Technological Design Department are always asking for design challenges, so when this opportunity presented itself, they were more than game,” said Stratford engineering teacher Erik Boczko. “Two students working together as a team used calipers to carefully measure one of the few remaining knobs and then modeled the part in Autodesk Inventor 2013. This process took two class periods and a lunch break to complete.”

In little more than an hour, a prototype was printed on the uPrint SE/plus 3-D and tested for functionality.

Stratford’s 3-D printer, costing about $24,000, was funded by the Carl Perkins Career Technical Education Grant.

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