I hope the Easter weekend was great for everyone. A few days ago, we were given two, Solidoodle Pro 2s to use for our new STEAM art room curriculum. After familiarizing myself with the printing program and teaching myself how to make a few objects or find templates to use. I have to say I have a nice round of success and failures in the 3D printing world.
Let me start with the Solidoodle 2, these printers were purchased through a grant last year, Solidoodle is a nice printer, it is currently on the mark 4, which is much more streamlined and a bit cleaner than the version I am currently using.
Pros: The Solidoodle is very easy to use, the extruder heads up to a safe 195 degrees in less than 10 minutes and the heading bed (use for smaller or multiple prints) will head up to 95 in the same amount of time. It is very easy to feed the filament into the extruder without much effort. I also like that controls will let you now if your project is too wide, large or too many objects to be printed. You can also center or reposition your prints with just a few taps of the mouse or track pad. The prints are also mostly clean and pretty solid and well built.
Cons: I have noticed that with the Solidoodle 2 is the filament feed can get tangled if not positioned correctly. I had two projects get cancelled when they were 60% finished due to the filament not feeding correctly and broke off. So, the longer the print, the more you want to monitor the printing until you can tell that there won’t be any signs of this happening. The currently Solidoodle 4 has corrected a lot of these problems with the streamline design and easy feed unit on the top instead of on the back of the device.
There is also no wi-fi connection or camera to monitor the printing like the Polar or Flashforge. Also, sometimes the heating bed can have problems depending on what you use hairspray or a glue stick to make sure your print stays on the print bed until enough of the print has been created to not worry about it coming loose.
Sounds great, but how does it work in the classroom?
I have gotten this question the few days, especially when a lot of schools have gotten larger printers like the Markerbot or the Ultimaker because a school or classroom will use them for the first year and the let it collect dust due to not pushing their limits or scaffolding on the previous classrooms. My niece had this happen to her school. There is a full plethora of ways to use a 3D printer for your classroom.
- Design pieces for your Drone Classroom: One of the big things we are going to use the 3D printer for is creating add ons from chariots to obsticals for our Spheros and Drone that will allow our students to use STEAM to design and create everything from coding to PBL lessons.
- Fundraisers: My other niece had her school do a fundraiser creating everything from smartphone cases to bookmarks. The funds raise go to upgrade their classroom tech, purchase supplies and so forth. Each print puts a personal touch to their prints.
- Improving Students’ Software Proficiency: With a 3D Printer in the classroom, students can take their designs from the computer screen and print them out in plastic before the one hour class time is over.
- 3D Printing Bridges the gap for students: 3D printed objects can be held in the hands of the student-designer can bridge the gap between simple visual perception and three-dimensional spatial visualization, and thereby incite a paradigm shift. Something as simple as the act of rotating and observing a seven inch prototype can have a profound effect on a student.
- Cost: Schools can buy a 3d printer and material for as low as $20 per pound of filament and less than $1,200. This is roughly enough material to make approximately 50 student projects the size of a smart phone cover. The only 3d printer maintenance required is the occasional lubrication of the linear bearings or possibly the rare tensioning of a belt. Many of the ones I mentioned such as the Flashforge and the Polar can print and be monitor wirelessly and fit perfectly into a schools one to one or one device classroom without any major problems to a school budget.
- Teachers can use them too: Many talk about the applications of a 3D printer for students, but they are also great for teachers too. While some classroom teachers are not thrilled to have another piece of technology thrown their way. 3D printers are very simple to use and can enhance a lesson or project. Think about creating LEGO pieces for your Teach like a Pirate classroom where you can make your characters and assemble them without spending $ for extra pieces. Or how about creating achievement badges for classroom achievement or even bookmarks. You can check out how this works over at 3D Maker Club.
- Its Fun!: Many forget, that learning is suppose to be fun and while it does require Professional Development and more. When you see students and teachers creating something digitally and then being able to create it in a physical form and use it, magic happens.
While I have my options already set for our own permanent 3D printer for my school, I am having a blast creating with it and so are my students and teachers and I hope to continue to reach the next level as we move forward with 3D printing.