Still weeding but…

We’re still weeding (although it should be done soon), and now we’re madly busy touring our local schools in the company of a Makerbot Replicator Mini!

hero-truck

Yes, we’re bringing 3D printing to the scholastic masses, and I highly recommend it! How are we doing it? Like this (much of this program was borrowed from Innisfil (Ontario) Public Library, many thanks to the staff there for sharing with us!):

We contacted all our elementary schools about two months ago, and asked if they’d like us to come and visit some or all of their grade 2 + students with a 3D printer. About 80% of the possible classes said “Oh yes, please”, so we’re going to be doing this every spare minute till the end of March.

We (2 children’s services staff) go into the classroom with the 3D printer, a laptop (since the Replicator Mini doesn’t do anything without a computer attached), and an ipad mini. We plug everything in, connect to the school wifi (or use our Bell stick if they don’t have wifi), start the printer printing something simple (there are lots of good 20-minute bookmark designs), and start talking about the printer and 3D printing generally–how it works, how you can find/make designs for printing, and Library-specific stuff like how much it costs and our guidelines (no weapons, nothing inappropriate, no intellectual property violations). We also invite the students to come up and watch the printer  When we’ve done that (20-30 minutes, including a brief tour of Thingiverse and free CAD programs), we plug the ipad into the projector, and walk the class through designing a class mascot with 123D Sculpt. Then we pry the bookmark off the printer and give it to the teacher, email the mascot design to ourselves, and more onto the next class. The mascot design is juggled for printability once we’re back at the library, and then we’ll print them and deliver them back to the school within 2-3 weeks.

The students adore it, even the ones who have seen a 3D printer before. They love having it in their classroom, being able to see it working up close, and designing something for it as a class. The teachers love it because it’s a class visit from the library which is interesting, different, and suitable for even the oldest elementary students (it’s hard to sell summer reading to Grade 8 teachers), plus lots of STEAM connections!

Our administrators/management/etc. love it, it sounds so current and topical, and although I doubt it’s as good for the kids as going in and reading to them, or talking about databases, you have to keep the senior people happy!

And do we love it? Yes, we love doing anything that anyone enjoys as much as this. We don’t love the fact that we will be insanely busy for the next month and a half (busy is good, but insanely busy for that long is tough), and that nothing much except 3D printing visits will get done, but that’s life–come June, we won’t do anything much except Summer Reading through until August, when we won’t do much except Back-to-School stuff, and so on and so forth.

If you’re wondering about cost and technology, we have 2 Makerbot 3D printers, a Makerbot Replicator 2 and the Mini; we got a grant for the 2 (which we’ve had for two years) and IT stumped up for the Mini last year (which costs about the same as a Macbook Pro). Our ipad was liberated from Adult Services, who had two for showing people how to use them, and we decided that one was more than adequate for that, and we have several laptops for programming and webinars and things, so we just borrow one of those. We are well-funded by our community, but not outrageously so, and the actual money we spent on technology specifically for this program was the price of two cables for plugging the ipad into projectors and smartboards, so we can allow the classes to see what their mascot looks like!

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