Fairfax County students get a 3D lesson in printing

Posted by Jacqui Adams on

Taken from Fairfax County Times

By Angela Woolsey

The students rushed across the classroom to gather around a trio of printers that looked like large black metal cubes with their insides hollowed out except for a raised platform in the middle. Excitement rippled up and down the line of 20 or so kids.

It took only one glance to see that these weren’t ordinary printers, an assumption confirmed by the fact that they were printing what looked like a bracelet and a plastic chain instead of paper.

“Does anyone know how 3D printers work?” a man asked the students.

“They make layers,” one of the students responded, watching as a stylus on one of the printers continued to squirt reddish goo onto the platform below.

“That’s right,” the man – MakerBot northeast territory manager Camil Touimi – said.

Based out of New York City, the 3D printing resources company MakerBot was giving a demonstration at Floris Elementary School in Herndon as part of a two-week-long educational tour through Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

MakerBot’s local partner, the 3D printing and design studio Herndon 3D, organized the tour with scheduled stops at 16 different elementary, middle and high schools in the county.

The two companies organized this tour, which is the first of its kind that they’ve done, to give students a hands-on experience with 3D printing, as schools continue to push science and technology as key components of modern education.

“The generation that’s in school today is the generation that’s going to be using 3D printing on a daily basis,” Herndon 3D founder Ran Farmer said. “The sooner we can get these students introduced to all of the technology that goes into 3D printing, the more well-prepared they’ll be for the future work environment.”

The MakerBot school tour stopped at Floris around 1:00 p.m. on May 26 after visiting Marshall High School in Falls Church that morning.

According to Touimi, MakerBot reached out to several different county schools to gauge their interest in the tour and selected the final destinations on a first-come-first-served basis.

At Floris, the tour visit involved 30-minute workshop sessions for approximately 120 sixth-grade students, who learned some basics about the technology that goes into 3D printers before participating in a team-building activity where they tried to build a bridge using straws and 3D-printed connectors.

Floris invited MakerBot to visit because the school will open its own STEAM lab in the fall.

FCPS’s STEAM program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes projects, research and collaboration not just between students, but also across different schools and the public and private sectors. More than 60 Fairfax County schools now have a STEM or STEAM lab, including almost half of the county’s elementary schools, according to the program’s manager, Scott Settar.

The STEAM lab at Floris, which funded the lab with the help of its Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), will be open to all students to use both during class and in their free time to work on projects involving tools such as Legos and robots.

The lab will also include a 3D printer purchased with funds raised by Floris’s departing class of sixth graders, so the MakerBot 3D tour seemed like an appropriate activity to bring to the school.

“This [tour] is a wonderful way to generate excitement for the lab and to get students involved hands-on with 3D printing,” Floris principal Gail Porter said. “They’re working collaboratively, they’re communicating with one another, and they’re solving problems, so it’s very exciting.”

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