With the help of a New York City-based company and private donations, students at Lakeland Union High School have another tool in the classroom to learn about the latest in engineering and technology.
Mike Effinger, LUHS technology and engineering teacher, recently acquired a 3D printer for the school, providing students with the technology to design and see their creation appear literally before their eyes.
According to Effinger, with 3D printing, people can quickly and easily make whatever their brains can imagine, from toys and gizmos to replacement parts to complex objects like cars, human organs, and even houses.
But New York City-based MakerBot believes it’s important for children to learn this pioneering technology at an early age, and is making an effort to get 3D printers inside every U.S. school by the end of 2013.
MakerBot is calling on the power of crowd funding to make its dream a reality.
“Instead of waiting for someone to create a product for you, you can create your own,” Effinger said.
Next industrial revolution
The next industrial revolution will be in 3D printing and MakerBot wants the future workforce to be ready and they are helping put a 3D printer in every one of them.
MakerBot Academy is the 3D printing company’s new initiative to provide students with the tools to learn about technology. According to the company, it’s a direct response to President Obama’s February 2013 State of the Union address, which encouraged businesses to think about ways to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.
“3D printing [has] the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything,” Effinger said. “So we thought it was important to acquire a 3D printer so we could use it in the classroom.”
According to Effinger, he went to the MakerBot Academy’s website and created a proposal as to how a 3D printer could be used in the classroom at LUHS. By placing the application on the website, the school gained approval for the proposal and then had private donors offer financial support to purchase the equipment and the related supplied software.
The MakerBot Academy bundle received by LUHS contains a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer, three spools of MakerBot PLA Filament, and a full year of the MakerBot MakerCare Service and Protection Plan.
The company and its new partners are also in the process of developing a 3D-printing curriculum for teachers to use.
The filament is an eco-friendly corn-based plastic product that is melted and formed into the shape of the design forwarded to the printer.
“It’s amazing because students can use their creativity to design something, have the design fed electronically to the 3D printer and then have the printer actually create the student’s design,” Effinger said.
“They can design and then print off prototypes.”
The 3D printer in used now by LUHS students, according to Effinger, can print objects as large as six-inches tall, by six inches deep and 11 inches wide.
“Students have been able to design and create a wide range of objects so far,” Effinger said. “They range from models of the Statue of Liberty, Abraham Lincoln’s head, puzzles, chains and many other things.”
No cost to school
According to Effinger, the entire package, if the high school would have to have paid for it, would have cost LUHS about $2,800.
“It’s helping the students better use their brains to come up with new and exciting ideas and designs,” Effinger said.
“The students draw it, they have the machine create it and then they can see the results very, very quickly.”
Effinger said having the 3D printer in his classroom helps students “unleash and promote their creativity.”
MakerBot officials say they hope the initiative “introduces students to key manufacturing skills they’ll need for the workforce.”
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.