Making experiential learning with 3D printing

Students in Missouri school experiment with prototyping and develop problem-solving skills with Dremel 3D printer

One day in May 2016, while browsing Twitter, Eric Langhorst stumbled upon a call for participants for the Dremel Idea Builder Ambassador program. Dremel Education, a manufacturer of 3D printers, was looking for 10 educators to use the Idea Builder 3D40 printer in innovative ways in their classrooms.

“I heard you needed to have hands-on IT skills to put together, run and maintain a 3D printer” says Langhorst, teacher of eighth-grade U.S. History, Technology and Broadcasting at Discovery Middle School near St. Louis. “But I did some research online and saw that people said the Dremel printers are very easy to use.”

Simple and effective

In June 2016, Langhorst was accepted as an Idea Builder Ambassador. He received his Idea Builder 3D40 over the summer, and he began using it with his students in the fall.

“This machine is completely plug-and-play” he says. “Within 40 minutes, I was printing my first object.”

The Idea Builder 3D40 has a clear case and an enclosed spotlight, allowing Langhorst and his students to see their objects being created. Users can print wirelessly or plug in a USB that contains the object file.

Real-world applications

In his U.S. History class, students create models of the Jamestown settlement—a project previously accomplished with popsicle sticks. Students also use Tinkercad, an easy-to-use modeling software, to design holiday ornaments and LED keychains. The Broadcasting class now has a special tripod created by the Idea Builder 3D40.

“We were able to print a 3D replica of a jaw bone of a dog that was discovered at Jamestown” says Langhorst. “It is so neat for our students to be able to see and study models of artifacts when they never would be able to touch the real thing.”

Using a 3D printer also helps students develop problem-solving skills, says Langhorst.

“Students need to think through designs and size specifications” he says. “Sometimes what looks great on a screen during the design phase does not print the way the student wants. They need to figure out how to modify their design.”

Every time a student’s design is printed and is handed to them, they are amazed, says Langhorst. Parents are “wowed” on parent-teacher nights. He hopes more 3D printers are integrated in other classrooms at his school.

When he needs assistance, the Dremel team has been easy to reach and helpful, says Langhorst.

“I gave a presentation about 3D printing and needed to box up my printer safely” he says. “I called Dremel and they immediately emailed me instructions. Dremel has been really attentive to me and supportive of how I am using the Idea Builder 3D40 in my classroom.”

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This case study appears in DA’s January 2017 Special Report Makerspaces

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