So this last project is very ambitious but also one that I believe is incredibly beneficial for students. It will help them to understand that the technology available to them at this time can allow for problem solving, creative thinking and that they can help those in need. Specifically, helping those that are in need of prosthetics that cannot afford them. This is the last of my big 3 projects and it will be my first year doing it. Let me share what I have learned so far and how to get started.
This will take time...
Before getting started, there a few things to realize. The first is that students should have exposure to playing with 3D design tools. The easiest and least expensive of these is Tinkercad. This website is actually powerful 3D design software that is browser based and will work with Chromebooks. I mention this because a lot of schools have moved towards using Chromebooks as their 1:1 tool. Click the image below to launch the site.
Begin by having students play with the software. Then push them by having them design specific items, such as keychains, rings, mugs etc. from scratch. When the time comes for them to redesign the final part of the project, it will come easy to many of them.
Did I mention this will take time?
3D printing can take time. The smaller an object, the faster it prints. The larger the object, the longer it takes to print. The more intricate a design, yup, the longer it takes. Below is an example of the wrist section for a prosthetic hand. On a quick print, it will take about four hours. This means about two a day on one printer and that will take 15 school days or about three weeks. So how can a teacher with 30 students work around this?
A printer farm is needed and the cost of entry has changed.
A printer farm is when you have multiple printers running. With three printers, that would equal 6 prints a day and would take one school week to accomplish. This is where most teachers believe it will cost about $3000 to get started. The truth is that the 3D printer scene has become competitive and prices have dropped greatly. Below is an example of a printer I have in my class and if you click on the picture it will take you to the page to purchase.
Now for the same one printer, you can purchase three that print a little slower but the quality is comparable. Below is the printer I'm talking about and if you click on the link you will find an ebay page where it is currently under $300 and a total of $120 off its original price.
What are the benefits?
3D printing is easily the number one piece of technology that my students can't get enough of! They love finding other designs, creating their own or redesigning a finished model. With this project, students will also learn that they have a tool that can allow them to change the life of someone they have never met. Reflecting on a project like this will produce great insight towards what students think about helping others. Well, at least that is the idea behind all this since I haven't reached that part yet. Let me share how to get started and my projected path for this lesson.
Step 1: Introduce students to Tinkercad and 3D design
Students will have a tutorial available to them right away and that is a great starting point. Below is how students can login with their Google accounts if they have them available.
Step 2: Help students understand what is possible with 3D printing
The videos below are great starting points for introducing how 3D printing works, but also what it means in regards to design process, access to resources and materials that can be used. I usually show them in this order but the difference this year was that after the last video I explained that students would redesign, print and assemble a prosthetic hand.
Step 3: Introduce the type of prosthetic you will have students redesign
There are lots of different prosthetics to choose from, ranging from a fingertip to whole finger to foot and even an entire arm. I chose the prosthetic below because it requires no hardware, i.e. nuts/bolts, but I have included links to other prosthetics just in case you have parents that can donate the $20-30 for said hardware. You can get a head start by printing universal pieces that have not been modified and then focus on finished designs as they come in. Click any of the pics below to head over to the website shown.
Step 4: What exactly will they redesign?
This is the step that will challenge their understanding of 3D design and yours as well. The students will need to redesign the prosthetic to look awesome but still be functional. With the hand that I chose, I asked students to limit their redesigns to just on part. I also helped them by suggesting the wrist be that part, which gives them plenty of space to work with and runs the lowest risk of making it inoperable. Below I have included some examples, starting with how the main palm piece looks originally.
The answer to the question "What will we do with these?"
Once you are asked this question, let students know that you will donate them. You can contact the original designers, local medical groups or Enabling the future and they can get you in contact with someone who could use these prosthetics. The follow through is the reflection students will write, which I have not reached yet. My plans are to get these out before the school year ends and get some feedback from those that the students have helped. Currently my students are assembling their hands, tinkering with how they fit together and in some cases waiting for me to print their actual design. I will revisit this project once we reach the end of the year, but so far I have seen amazing things from my students and their thoughts about helping others has really helped me to understand where this project can go.
Hi! My name is Jesus Huerta and I help kids find their creativity by making things! Tech comes second and all that jazz. Contact me with ANY questions at firstname.lastname@example.org