MAGIC DISCOVERED IN MIDDLE SCHOOL 3D PRINTING CLUB
By Alex Monte-Sano, Greenhills teacher and Middle School 3D Printing Club advisor
A teacher’s greatest joy is to have students who are intrinsically motivated and naturally curious. Like an anthropologist in a distant land, I have discovered a magical band of students who love what they are doing so much that they organize themselves and need little input from adults. This Shangri-La is the middle school 3D Printing Club.
The club meets during conference and collaboration (C&C) time and has a few simple rules:
- Everyone is welcome,
- Objects that are student designed get printed first, and
- If your first print does not work out then you should try again.
A few weeks ago, I had an important meeting that ran over time and went to nearly the end of C&C. I feared that I would find the chaos that can accompany indirectly supervised students when I finally got to the Fab Lab makerspace. Instead, the opposite was true. Twenty 6th and 7th graders were intently focused on using Tinkercad to bring their imagination to life. No one was running or fooling around, and the only noise was students helping each other.
The club is proof that when you give students choice and autonomy they tend to be their best selves. Students have designed an incredible array of items including lightsabers, “Among Us” characters, diplomas for robotics students, battery dispensers, Apple Watch charging stands, and fidget spinners. The more advanced students have taken up the challenge of making two separately printed items that fit together. There is no better way to learn about tolerances! The volume of designs has nearly overwhelmed me and the printers. I recently reached the pinnacle when I had all four printers at Greenhills going at once!
Students in the 3D Printing Club are practicing important skills. They are thinking about requirements for their designs. They are making initial prototypes and revising when things do not work out the way they imagined (wait, those measurements were in millimeters!). Most importantly, each design is solving a problem or need that a student experiences. I firmly believe that one of these students is going to design an important medical device, climate solution, or consumer product. Even though my time with the club has been short, it has been an incredibly meaningful part of my educational career.