For British Science Week this year I thought I’d get a 3D printer into school. I had a vague idea that it might inspire the children (and staff) – but really, I saw the create Ultimaker education project and felt inspired myself!! The Ultimaker Project allows you to borrow a 3D printer, and, once you have it they offer all sorts of advice, ideas and inspiration. Do check out the website.
What then did we get out of a 3D printer?
Well, first of all it really was a great opener into all things 3D. Using the fantastic tinkercad the children can actually create their own designs. Even just going through the tutorials is a fantastic way in for most of the children. The conversations we had around 3D shape were fantastic and really gave the maths curriculum a bit of a lift.
The 3D printer also gave some concrete examples of fantastic real world science. We are in the middle of our Tim Peake Science Project and the chance to look at a wrench that was built on the space station was great! Nasa have some great 3D models here.
It was also really easy to see the printer working and to understand how it worked – even the younger years could talk about the different materials and the way it heated up to build and then cooled it down to make it solid.
Did we manage to design and print our own stuff?
Well, basically, yes we did. But this is probably the trickiest part for primary. I used an app called ThingMaker which allowed the children to design, and then print, figures. This was very easy and a number of children we able to give it a go, but the printing was very fiddly and didn’t always work. It did, however, stress to the children how important accuracy is. Always a good thing.
We also had a go with the TinkerCad, and was able to create a couple of items which were personalised. This again was tricky however, mainly because of the time it took to print. Not everyone could get their items printed.
Worthwhile in the school?
The free loan is such a fantastic idea that I would recommend it to all schools. It had everyone in school enthralled – many had never seen one before much less had the chance to tinker with it. There a few health warnings – I spent a Sunday tinkering with it to get it working properly – but there are plenty of online plans for you to jump straight into the printing side of it once it’s calibrated!