Our 4th graders at Blackford Elementary School have been busy starting their 3D jewelry design and printing factory! 4th grade teacher, May Liu, was part of our 2015 Advanced STEAM Cohort and was excited to work on a project with Blackford's new 3D printer. We recently purchased a Polar 3D printer for all of our elementary and middle schools through a K - 16 Manufacturing Grant that we are part of with our local high school and community community college. We selected the Polar 3D because of its ability to send prints wirelessly through the Polar Cloud (great for sharing with multiple classes), its included live video capabilities, the ease of preparing the build plate (only a layer of hair spray is needed), the safety and environmental impact of using recycled PLA filament, and its relatively low cost of $599 (with educational pricing).
We first had students do the first three self-paced tutorials on TinkerCAD.com (using their district Google Accounts to sign in) with their Chromebook and a 3-button mouse. Students were then presented with the engineering design challenge of designing a pendant for their mom for Mother's Day. They were given the criteria of an original pendant no larger than 25 mm in length, 25 mm in width, and a total height of 10 mm. We suggested a base height of 7 mm, and allowed them to decide how high to make their attachments (letters and other shapes). Students were also reminded that a pendant should have a hole for the string or keychain, so either creating it with the hole tool, or using another shape like the tube to attach a loop. It was really interesting to watch the students create innovative solutions to stay within these parameters.
Students then saved their finished pendants as .STL files on their Google Drive, which could then be shared with their teacher. We then taught some of the students how to load the prints to the Polar Cloud so that they could help us start the prints and retrieve them from the printer (which is housed in the school library). We printed all of the pendants using white filament so that students could use sharpies to create multi-colored designs.
Ms. Liu also had the brilliant idea of using recycled plastic containers and post-its to keep track of the progress of each student. Using their student numbers, we could easily see which pendants still needed to be printed, colored, or tied into a necklace or keychain. She also exercised a lot of patience as she spent over a week getting a pendant printed for each student in her class!
The finished pendants were beautiful and the 4th graders were so proud to give them to their mothers!