A 3D printing class inspires creativity among girls in middle school, encouraging an interest in STEM subjects in a popular nine week class at the end of the school day. The hum of the 3D printer is a contstant background noise in the class, as at least one of the for MakerBot printers at Maconaquah Middle School is usually in use.
A mechanical arm repeats the same pattern over and over, dispensing layer after layer of plastic to create the 3-D object designed by the girls.
“This is pretty cutting edge for a middle school, just the idea of spatial recognition with three-dimensional shapes,” said Shaffer, who teaches math and leads the 3-D printing class.
About 20 sixth- through eighth-grade girls signed up for the class this school year. They immediately pull out their laptops and get to work when they arrive for the brief enrichment period. So far, they’ve designed houses and now are working on vases. They use Autodesk, a free 3-D design and engineering software program, to map out the objects they want to print.
The corporation purchased two of the 3-D printers, Duke Energy funded one and the other was purchased through a grant. Maconaquah also has a MakerBot Digitizer, a 3-D scanner that captures an object as a 3-D image that can then be manipulated digitally and used to print replicas.
On Tuesday, Shaffer explained how to start with a two-dimensional shape and then pick an axis to rotate it around to make it three-dimensional. To turn it into a vase, the girls then had to hollow out an area in the center.
“We’re talking about a pretty advanced thing. It took me awhile to figure out too,” Shaffer told the students.