Tech grant allows North Tahoe School to bring 3D designs to life | SierraSun.com

Tech grant allows North Tahoe School to bring 3D designs to life

Jessica VanPernis Weaver
Special to the Sun
Eighth-grade students at North Tahoe School print a model of their own design in the technology lab.
Courtesy photo |

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — You may have heard a bit about 3D printing and how it is allowing people to create products designed to solve real-world problems.

Prosthetic limbs for people and dogs. The creation of standard, everyday items people use like hand mixers and toilet paper dispensers. The development of miniature models. The list of things that can be created with a 3D printer is as endless as the imagination.

Thanks to a grant provided by the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation, North Tahoe School students are now being introduced to 3D CAD printing as part of their technology enrichment classes.

“3D CAD instruction has been part of the technology enrichment program at North Tahoe School for years. The new printer has given students the tool needed to prototype and test physical models using the same design, math, science and engineering practices used by professionals,” said Scott Beaudry, technology media design teacher at North Tahoe School.

A type of industrial robot, a 3D printer extends the conceptual design practices implemented in the classroom by giving students the tools needed to generate physical models of their own unique design ideas.

In the printing process, successive layers of material are laid down under computer control. The objects can be of nearly any shape or geometry, and are produced from a three-dimensional model or other electronic data source.

Materials such as plastic, sand, metal, and more can be used through a print nozzle. The layers, which correspond to the virtual cross sections of the CAD model, are joined, and construction of whatever design is being printed can take minutes or days depending on the complexity of design.

With the introduction of the printer at North Tahoe School this year, curriculum has included teaching students about 3D modeling tools, 3D printing basics, creative approaches to designing prototypes with “real-world” applications, and understanding mathematical practices essential for education, work and career life.

“We have been utilizing the printer in our before school GATE program to design products and shapes, accompany stories we create, and expand our knowledge of technology,” said Doug Reid, fifth-grade teacher at North Tahoe School.

According to Beaudry, students have been very receptive to the program and are extremely excited about their ability to use the CAD programming tools they’ve learned at school to generate 3D models and watch their creative ideas come to life.

“I like working with new technology and making models on the computer that we can print in class,” said Daniel, an eighth-grade technology and media design student.

Manufacturers of 3D printers such as MakerBot indicate students and inventors alike have used the devices to prototype inventions and engineer parts that don’t exist.

With the ability to turn anyone into an inventor, 3D printers provide convenience that allows for things to be created and then easily printed — turning it into a physical product that can immediately be used or quickly revised and improved upon.

“I think it’s fascinating to see the things we build on the computer transform into solid, touchable objects on the printer,” said Liam, a North Tahoe School eighth-grade technology and media design student.

So, what’s next for this program? How will it continue to grow or change?

“Next year, students will engage in more activities involving the production of designs that solve real world problems,” said Beaudry.

In the meantime, students are enthralled with the ability to quickly design and modify models as they innovate and come up with creative ideas.

“It’s interesting when you can design and build objects that solve real world problems and help people,” said Irvin, eighth grade student at North Tahoe School.

“It has been amazing to watch the potential for student learning thanks to the technology grants provided by Excellence in Education,” added Beaudry.

Jessica VanPernis Weaver is an Excellence in Education board member.