Using 3D printers to create authentic experiences

The user-friendly MOD-t 3D printer facilitates experiential learning at Los Angeles academy

When STEM3 Academy built its first innovation lab in 2014, one of the first pieces of equipment installed in the space was a 3D printer.

“We saw that it could be a very useful tool to integrate into the curriculum” says Dr. Ellis Crasnow, director of STEM3 Academy. “We began immediately teaching 3D modeling and using the printer to prototype student designs.”

The Los Angeles academy provides a STEM-based curriculum to 75 students who have high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and other social and learning differences. The 3D printer the students most enjoy using is the MOD-t from New Matter.

“MOD-t printers are distinguished by their ease of use and high quality of the print” says Crasnow. “It’s rare to find that combination in a printer that is also reasonably priced and hardy.”

Consistent reliability

The clear cover of the MOD-t printer protects students’ prints, as well as reduces noise and keeps students safe from hot or moving parts. Because it is Wi-Fi enabled, students can print wirelessly from any device. It also runs dependably, says Crasnow.

“In the time that we have had it, I cannot recall having a single issue with it” he says. “So it’s always in use, unlike other printers that are often down being maintained.”

Real learning moments

The MOD-t fits in perfectly to STEM3 Academy’s experiential learning model. Students must engage instructional material, be hands- on and apply what they learn to real-world projects and solving contemporary problems. Because the Academy is a STEM school, it is important that students have access to and develop proficiency in contemporary technologies, including 3D printers. Elementary school students use the MOD-t printers with assistance, and middle and high school students can use them independently.

Students who learn SOLIDWORKS or Tinkercad or who are part of a CAD class make a variety of functional objects, says Crasnow. Projects include a case for tools, a charging holder for a smartphone, a variety of doorstops, business card holders with the STEM3 Academy logo, and game pieces as part of an English project.

The students who use the MOD-t, as well as their parents and visitors to STEM3 Academy, are all impressed with the potential of the 3D printers.

“I have lots of prospective parents come through the school touring, as well as visitors, and they are amazed by the innovation lab and by the technology it contains” says Crasnow. “Most have heard of a 3D printer but many have never seen one or seen one in action. To see what the printer can do is an astonishing experience.”

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

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