Kris Schwengel, 4th grade teacher at Punahou School, shares his insights and experiences using 2BOT’s Classroom ModelMaker, 3D printer. Read on to learn how his students were able to create physical models from virtual data and hear his students’ enthusiastic feedback in this lively video.
By Kris Schwengel
Using the Classroom ModelMaker, my students will learn a wonderful lesson about technology and the future of manufacturing, design, and creativity.
Project Goal: Students will create topography maps of Maui using three methods:
1. A hand-made product using poster board as students here have done for the past 25 years
2. A 3D model of Maui using Google SketchUp
3. A digitally engineered and manufactured Maui map using the 2BOT Classroom ModelMaker
Here at Punahou, every 4th grade student boards a plane with his or her classmates to Maui to experience another island and learn about its biodiversity, geography, and culture. In order to prepare for this trip, students have, for decades, created beautiful hand-made topography maps. Nowadays, students are able to realize this same project in a variety of ways using technology. Rest assured my goal is NOT to replace hand-made products. Rather, my goal is to give students exposure to a variety of methods that they will then compare and contrast, no doubt coming to a variety of conclusions.
As a huge fan of the FAQ format, here are questions and answers most educators will/should have about this project:
How long does this project take? This Maui Maps project takes about a month, but mainly because of the slow (but awesomely precise) cutting speed of the ModelMaker.
What level of knowledge should a teacher have in Google SketchUp for this project? Medium. This software is amazingly intuitive, but can be a tad tricky at times. This is definitely a project the teacher should do first on his or her own before having students to do it.
Is the 2BOT ModelMaker difficult to use? Not at all. One of the best aspects is how seamlessly is fits with the Google SketchUp software. Did I mention SketchUp is free?
Can this be done in either Mac or PC? Yes. Currently the ModelMaker only works with a PC computer so you’ll need at least one PC.
What lessons have you learned as a teacher from this? I’ve learned that 4th graders are not only capable of 3D modeling and fabricating, but also that they adore it! The academic possibilities are staggering at this point.
What lessons have the students learned from this experience? I think there may be too many to count, but I know for sure the students have learned about scale, a plethora of geometry concepts, spatial reasoning, and troubleshooting. I’m even more excited about the early exposure to the concept of 3D modeling and fabrication.
What are the costs involved?
– Hand-made maps cost about $2 per student in materials
– Google SketchUp is free
– The 2BOT Classroom ModelMaker prices can be found through IAAK.
Will you do this again? I would love to expose every student to this process, so yes I would. I will encourage my school to make this part of the 4th grade curriculum as it fits perfectly with our standards and goals.
Which process did the students like the best? The amazing thing about this project is the ratio of “favorite” process is split in thirds: some students most enjoyed the handmade maps, some enjoyed the 3D modeling, and some enjoyed the actual fabrication of their maps. In my opinion, that is the mark of a great project.
How long does the ModelMaker take to create one map? At the finest setting, one map takes about four to six hours to fabricate in the ModelMaker. The Google SketchUp design takes between 40 to 90 minutes for a 4th grade student to make. The handmade topography maps take about two hours for the kids to make.
What would you do differently next time? Time management is an issue because the fabrication process takes long. This simply means the teacher has to be organized enough to keep the ModelMaker working in the morning and throughout the evening. I simply load in a new piece of foam, hit ‘print’, and come back the next morning. There is no reason a teacher needs to be anywhere near the machine while it is working.
Are there other machines that might work like the ModelMaker? Yes, but this machine is truly “plug and play,” meaning there is very little fiddling or calibrating as with other machines.
Is there other software besides Google SketchUp that would work for this project? Yes, but I’ve never seen anything better for kids. Any software that can export a kmz file will work, but most other software packages won’t be as user friendly for kids as SketchUp.
What other uses can you think of for the 2bot Classroom ModelMaker? I’ve now opened up this process to the kid’s imaginations. Students are making desk caddies, marble mazes, coat of arm shields, name signs, motorcycle wheels, and the list goes on! That’s what is so exciting about this technology. I can see uses throughout math programs, art classes, architecture courses, and even history classes where the students could make 3D replicas of artifacts “half buried” in blocks of foam with protruding labels.
Would you recommend this for grades lower than 4th Grade? Not really. Advanced 3rd graders might be able to handle Google SketchUp. That said I bet many people would never have thought the 4th Graders would be capable of such amazing 3D modeling and creativity!
What are the benefits to students in using 3D images over 2D or printer copy images? 2D is fine, but 3D is simply a better form of expression because we live in a 3D world. It is clear to me that our brains crave three dimensional objects because on some level, they just make more sense to us as beings that live in three dimensions, not to mention that fact that educators should constantly seek to understand their audience: children. We all know that children gravitate towards tactile learning whenever given the choice.