Additive Manufacturing Workshop offers training and 3D printing kit

December 12th, 2017

 Last Friday, December 8th, the Rapid Prototyping Center hosted a one day additive manufacturing workshop, which provided attendees with a free 3D printer classroom kit for their school, including software, student exercises, curriculum examples and student modules. The event was a joint effort between Tennessee Tech University and Ed Tackett, who led the program throughout the day, helping attendees set up and learn their software. Sponsored by an NSF grant, AM-WATCH, the event is intended to help educators learn how to integrate additive manufacturing into the classroom.

Educators from a variety of locations and backgrounds were in attendance, including teachers and community activists from Indiana, Chicago, and Tennessee. For many, the introduction of 3D printers into their curriculum is an extension of their pre-existing programs, involving AutoCAD and technology.

For Seth Caudill, who teaches advanced manufacturing and higher tech in the West Clark Community Schools in Sellersrburg, IN, additive manufacturing helps realize their vision.

“I’m hoping to give kids something they can hold in their hands, so if they take an idea from their head, they create it with Autocad software, and then they have something tangible they can hold onto," said Caudill. "That really enhances the learning experience.”

Teaching mostly non-verbal students with moderate and severe disabilities, Katherine Cooper of the Churchill Park School in Louisville, sees their 3D Printer as an opportunity to engage her students, many of which have difficulty with basic communication. Echoing the sentiments of Caudill, there is a tactile quality to additive manufacturing that she believes may inspire a deeper degree of understanding and expression.

“Our thoughts were using this for making things for them to manipulate that go with the curriculum that we’re teaching," Cooper said. "Their goals are to interact with objects. If they were reading a book, and we wanted to make an object from the book. Things that the students are willing to touch.”

Hailing from the Chicago Eco House, Ben Anderson and Quilen Blackwell had a different use in mind entirely for their 3D printer. Founded by Blackwell, the organization is a network of non-profits in inner city Chicago, by providing opportunities for at risk youth.

“We use it to spur some economic development in the inner city. From an environmental standpoint, our materials are biodegradable, secondly when you manufacture on locally, you’re cutting off that transportation route. It’s made locally, on demand. Our kids are learning to how to design fidget spinners, or jewelry, or things that people want in specific,” says Blackwell.

Anderson adds, “we’re starting eco works and we’re starting to develop that more, so that the kids can make money, experience entrepreneurship, and get marketable skills like 3D printing. I’m excited to learn more about it and to pass it on.”

View photos from the workshop.