3D Technologies & Makerspaces

Reading Alexis Johns’s post about 3D printing in the classroom (“Printing Doesn’t Have To Leave A Paper Trail”) reminded me of all the 3D technology that I use coaching First Tech Challenge Robotics, potentially could use in my classroom, and how it ties into maker spaces.  For the robotics team, our challenge changes every year, presenting new problems with the designing, building, and programming of the robot.  Having access to a 3D printer allows my team to customize and print their own parts.  They gain experience with design, CAD, and printing robot extensions, gears, pulleys, etc.  This year my team is looking at 3D printing some sort of wheels that will allow use to climb “mountains” that have angles of 30 and 50 degrees without having our robot tip over or fall backwards!

Maker spaces both in the community and classroom have really seem to taken off lately.  With the big push for more STEM opportunities in schools and providing students with “21st century skills” that they can apply in their future careers, maker spaces aid providing these experiences.  The nice thing about maker spaces is that they are not subject specific.  Students can design, build, program, and create things that are cross-curricular.  Presenting students with a challenge or allowing them to choose their own challenge is motivating and rewarding both academically and personally.  There are no guidelines on how big or small the space has to be, what technology needs to be included, and who can join.  This allows for more flexibility in schools to meet the needs of students.  Not only in schools, but also in the community, maker spaces allow for collaborative work, networking, and charity.

I love how our maker space in my community, QC CoLab, provides a place that I can go for help, resources, or to use their machines with welcome arms.  Our high school had quite a big pile of broken TI-83 graphing calculators a few years back.  I was able to bring them to the CoLab maker space, have some of the members teach me how to solder, and we fixed most of the calculators (which are approximately $100 each!).  Turns out that the wiring from the screen to the circuit board was bad and just needed to be re-soldered.  Learning this skill I will now be able to teach my robotics students and team members how to solder.  I never thought that I would be able to solder and actually not break anything more than it was broken in the first place!  It is also another example that I can share with my students of something I accomplished, which I hope they will use to help themselves break out of stereotypes (such as women in industrial technology).