3D Printing and Education

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Disclaimer: I am, by no means, an expert in this, and I'd consider myself a "newbie".  This has been a fun and interesting hobby for me so far, and I continue to learn more and more about it.

MakerBot_ Replicator 2About a month ago, I saw a posting on Facebook from a friend at church whose son had been to our local library to use their 3D printers.  My first thought was, "Our library has a 3D printer?!  Oh, this sounds intriguing!"  So, I asked some questions to find out that as long as you are of a certain age and take their free 90-minute course, you can come to the library's Idea Studio to use their MakerBot: Replicator 2 printers (they have two) for free.  (The included image is not taken from our library, but it's an example of what their 3D printers look like.)  So, I signed up for their next class, and now I'm able to go to the Idea Studio and print anything I want during the times that the Idea Studio is open.

My main interest, so far, has been printing components for board games.  In particular, I have a board game called "Betrayal at House on the Hill" which includes six five-sided character cut-outs to keep track of stats.  The markers that were included with the game slide off way too easily, and I wanted something better.  So, searched Google for resources on 3D prints and board games and came across an incredible database of links put together by someone on BoardGameGeek.com.  This is where I learned about the website Thingiverse.com.  I found a design I liked, and then after a little trial and error, I had printed out a whole set for my game.  Each colored set took approximately 28-30 minutes to print.

What does this have to do with education?  Well, searching through the site some more...I found that Thingiverse.com has an entire area dedicated to education.  While it may not be as large as the rest of the site, it does have several educational 3D print designs.  You can further break it down into grade level (K-5, 6-8, 9-12, and University) or by subject area.  There are some really neat things people have designed for education.  Here are a few example links:

Some of you may already have 3D printers available to you at your school.  We do as well, but they are for students to use during their classes.  So, I was pleased to learn about 3D printing at our public library.  This might be something you want to check out in your own city or school.  There may be a cost to this (YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary).  Also, you'll need time.  Generally speaking, the bigger the print, the more time you'll need.  (Depending on the size and amount of material used to print, it could take hours and hours.)  Or, if you are willing to pay someone to do it for you, you can search your local area to get quotes on something you'd like to have printed.  Here's one site that helps with this: 3D Hubs.

Question: Do you use 3D printing or use 3D printed models in your course(s)?  If so, how?

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