Teaching from the Ground Up
There is no question that 3D printing is a complex emerging technology inaccessible to most children and adults. If it is indeed the coming revolution in manufacturing that it is said to be, how can schools prepare their students to become 3D savvy? The Orange County School Department of Education and Airwolf 3D just may have hit upon the solution: Teach teachers to build 3D printers for the classroom.
Build Day Was a Remarkable Opportunity for Teachers to Build 3D Printers For the Classroom and to Become Intimately Familiar with 3D Printing Technology
On a Saturday in December 2013, more than 18 teachers from Orange County educational institutions that ranged from junior high schools to community colleges assembled at 8am for an extraordinary day of teacher training: each was going to build a 3D printer for their classrooms. Then they would learn how to operate them, and then they would go forth and teach. It was called Build Day.
Training was provided by Erick Wolf of Airwolf 3D, designer and manufacturer of precision 3D printers in Costa Mesa. Build Day began at 8 am with each teacher being assigned a work station and an Airwolf Kit —a box of more than 500 parts that comprised each Airwolf XL printer. Their kits also contained a set of tools and assembly and user manuals. Over the course of the next eight hours the teachers learned how to assemble the stationary frame, build the moving parts, and install and calibrate the electronics. Their first prints ranged from small vases to toy rockets. By the end of the day, 3D printers were ready to be pressed into service for student education.
3D Printers as Part of the 2014 Maker Challenge
Build Day served as the kick-off of the 2014 Maker Challenge, a collaborative project of Career Technical Education of Orange County that is providing an opportunity for local students to participate in an integrated STEM design project. Their challenge is to use 3D modeling and printing to design and build or significantly repurpose products that will solve problems, needs, or wants. Winning projects will be exhibited at the Youth Expo STEM Showcase on April 11-13, 2014.
“Airwolf 3D is excited to be part of this visionary teaching initiative,” said Erick Wolf. “3D printing is more than a one or two step process: it is a rapidly evolving form of manufacturing that can be done on a desk top provided the operator understands how to calibrate his printer, work with design software, and use the various materials now available for 3D printers. It is very likely that the most effective way of transferring this knowledge to students is the ground up model.” Continues Wolf, “Because Airwolf’s printers were designed to be capable of printing all of their custom components, the machines constructed on Build Day in 2013 can be used to print parts for more printers in the future. And the educational process can continue.”
Orange County educational institutions participating in the 2014 Maker Challenge include Savanna High School, Walker Jr. High School, South Jr. High School, Golden West College, Santiago High School, Rancho Alamitos, Westminster High School, Huntington Beach High School, Anaheim High School, El Modena High School, Serrano Int., Rancho Santa Margarita Int., Valley High School, Century High School, ATEP Irvine Valley College, Saddleback College, and Tustin High School.