Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Students Taking The Lead: Two Students Help Me Present A 3D Printing Session At A State Conference

Through the magic of social media and this blog, others in our state have found out about our 3D printing antics in the library media center. About two months ago, our technology director (Mrs. Melinda Dodd) and Hot Springs Technology Institute (HSTI) director (Mr. Don Benton) approached me about teaching 3D printing basics at the upcoming HSTI pre-conference in June 2015. I was very excited about this opportunity, especially for our students. One of the items I have worked on this year is student led presentations. I saw this as a great opportunity to include a few of our EAST students that have become knowledgeable about 3D printing this year!

Melinda and Don were both very supportive of including the students in the presentation! I decided to use two upcoming sophomores for this project. They had spent the most time working with our MakerBot Replicator and they had also presented successfully many times during our library lunch programs. They both agreed to join the presentation team! We immediately began brainstorming what our 6 hour session should look like. After many weeks of planning, we finally decided on the following schedule:

9:00-10:00           Introductions And Set up
10:00-11:00         MakerBot Desktop Basics/ Print Your First Object
11:00-12:00         Lunch
12:00-1:00           Troubleshooting/ MakerBot Desktop/ Thingiverse
1:00-2:00             Lesson Integration Activity
2:00-3:00             Sketchup Make/ Extension Warehouse
3:00-4:00             Work On Your Own/ Set Up Remaining Printers

We decided to meet on the Saturday prior to the actual event to do a complete run through. This was a good idea, especially since the students had been away from school on summer vacation for nearly two weeks. 
Practicing our session.

On the day of the actual event, we were confident that we had a good lineup of material and skills to share with the attendees. A few days prior to the session, I had emailed all 19 attendees to briefly tell them about the session. I also asked them to bring a laptop if possible. I sent links for them to download and install both the MakerBot Desktop software and SketchUp Make.

There are few things that are more exciting than walking into a room full of 3D printers that are still boxed up! We set the printers out on the tables for the attendees to pick up. We counted 19 printers still in the boxes. The cost of all this equipment comes to over $30,000!

MakerBot Replicator Minis Still In The Box

We decided to start the session by breaking the attendees into groups of 4-5 and having them assemble one MakerBot printer. This made the session much more manageable for us to assist everyone. It didn't take long for us to get the printers all set up and ready to print. Everyone was very excited, including the presenters.

When every group's printer was ready to go, I turned the session over to the students. Skylar took the lead and shared about MakerBot Desktop. He and Austin showed the basics of finding files, saving them, and preparing them to print. After half an hour had passed, everyone had selected an item and started the printing process!

Skylar presents MakerBot Desktop to our attendees.

Austin and Skylar answer questions about 3D Printing
This entire process took a few hours, but by lunch every group had printed successfully! After lunch we came back and shared some resources for 3D Printing. I created a Wiki to share URLs of video clips and interesting websites including some of our own blog entries. That Wiki is located here. After viewing some of the video links to show ways 3D Printing is used, we gave the groups an hour to find an object in the MakerBot Thingiverse, print the object, and discuss how it could be used in the classroom. With 19 educators and technology specialists in one place, we knew there would be some creative ideas! This activity turned out great with many practical applications for science, art, and career exploration.

After this exercise, Skylar presented SketchUp Make software. He showed attendees how to create 3D objects using the free version of this software. He then showed them how to export those files to MakerBot Desktop, so they can be printed. Following this, we allowed attendees to assemble their remaining printers and/ or experiment while we were there to help them.

It was a truly wonderful activity for all involved. I was especially proud of our students. They performed like professionals. It reminded me that I need to seek additional opportunities for students to present and teach. What impact would an activity like this have had on me as a 15 year old student? I know it would have made a great difference in my self-confidence and presentation skills. I look forward to the next opportunity to see our students shine in front of educators from around the state! I challenge you to do the same.

Go here to see how we shared the stage with students at a different state conference this year!

A popular article about our student led 3D printing library session is here!

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