Students in the Tech Innovations classes at Hills?boro High School are no longer limited to seeing their projects as a two-dimensional printout or even a three-dimen?sional view on the computer screen.
Hillsboro is one of the few high schools in the state to offer three-dimensional printing, thanks to the MakerBot Replicator 2 that takes up surprisingly little space in one of the side rooms in the technology center.
Now, students can see, feel and hold their projects as three-dimensional plastic models?in miniature form, of course, when the actual project is far larger than the size of the 3D printer.
That new tool has come in handy for the small groups in Lance Sawyer?s class who are working on a semester project to design and build shelter coverings over the bleachers at the Sports Complex ballfields.
?I think it brings a whole different view to it,? said senior Evan Ollenburger, a member of one of the groups. ?Everybody?s so used to a 2D image. Being able to print it in 3D, even though it?s not going to be exact, still brings a whole different view for whoever will be looking at it.?
Doug Sisk, the city?s recreation director, came to the class with the idea for the bleacher coverings, and asked students come up with design ideas.
?We thought it would be cool to design it online and then print it with the 3-D printer,? Ollenburger said.
Working with the 3D printer is a learning process in itself, according to Saw?yer.
?We just started using it in January,? he said. ?We?ve actually printed quite a bit off for only having it so long. We?re still working out a lot of kinks with it, but we?re understanding how it works.?
For example, when Ollenburger?s group first printed out the base for their project?representing the concrete slab on which the bleachers rest?they programmed the printer to make the model version hollow.
3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of plastic material?in this case?are laid down in prescribed shapes.
When the project base was finally done, students realized the outer edges of the base were too thin?the base was too flimsy to serve as a realistic model.
?There?s a thickness guage that you can set,? Ollenburger said. ?You can shell it out or you can print it all the way through (solid).?
They adjusted the settings and came out with a solid product. Literally.
?I mean, it?s still hollow in the inside, but there?s a thicker outside shell,? he said. ?You can push down on it (and it doesn?t budge.)?
In addition to using a computer program to design an object for printing, the system comes with a digitizer that can scan a three-dimensional object and send the dimensions directly to the printer.
?You can set an object down and it will scan around it, and then it will save it and then you can bring it up,? Ollenburger said. ?It?s not like you have to save it to the computer.?
Project Lead the Way
Considering the technological advancement of a 3D printer versus, say, a photocopier, the MakerBot Repli?cator 2 is relatively inexpen?sive at around $2,000.
USD 410 purchased the system with a grant from Project Lead the Way, a university-based program for high schools that focuses on the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
USD 410 is in its first year as a member of the program.
Sawyer learned how to run the 3D equipment while participating in Project Lead the Way teacher-certification training sessions this summer.
?I know there?s some (schools) in the Project Lead the Way sections that have (a 3D printer)?like the bigger schools in Wichita have one,? Sawyer said. ?But a school our size, you don?t see it very often.?
Sawyer plans to use the tool in some of his other classes, too. He thinks Creigh Bell, technology instructor at the high school, likely will use it in his VEX robotics program.
?If they need a part, they?ll just get it made on that (3D printer) instead of having to go buy one,? Saw?yer said about the students.
?I think this is a great opportunity for our school,? he added. ?It?s generated a lot of interest in these STEM classes. So, anything we can do to get kids in these fields is a good thing.
?We?re really lucky to have things like this, and we?re lucky that we have an administration that supports this and are willing to spend that money.
?It?s been fun.?