February 17, 2016

3-D printer brings design and production to a new level

By Annette Tait
Their parents might see the latest technology tool in the Center-Stanton High School Agriculture Education Department as something right out of Star Trek or some other science fiction tale. But to the students learning to use the 3-D (three dimensional) printer, it’s just another piece of equipment that may figure into their future careers.
“Students get real-world experience,” CSHS Agriculture Education Instructor Nikki Fideldy said. “They visualize it, touch it, they can manipulate it, and hopefully, some day they can apply it.”
CSHS has use of the 3-D printer and associated design software as one of six rotations through the Core Discovery Trust, a consortium that offers small schools an opportunity to give students hands-on experience using equipment most schools otherwise could not afford. Other rotation opportunities for agriculture education, science, and technology departments during the 2015-2016 school year include a plasma cutter and mini global positioning unit (GPS), embroidery, a CNC (computer numerical control) router, mechanics-hydraulics-pneumatics, a laser/GPS, robots, a bio-chemistry unit, and a laser engraver and vinyl cutter for graphic production.
Fideldy is impressed by the thought that went into Core Discovery’s choice of equipment.
“They didn’t just buy a 3-D printer,” she said. “They did the research to buy what’s being used in the industry.”
The equipment and software comes with step-by-step instructions for a series of student projects. Fideldy and science, technology, and agriculture education teachers from other schools in the rotation were trained to use the equipment during classes held prior to the start of the school year.
“The training is just like what I teach in class,” Fideldy said. “The class is all hands-on.”
She went on to explain that preparing a project for 3-D printing is a completely different effort from two-dimensional drafting.
“Kids have drafted on a 2-D scale, but working with 3-D is abstract – it’s difficult to make the transition,” Fideldy said. “It’s been a challenge for them to grasp, but it was for me, too – I just learned it this summer.”
Fideldy’s Ag Tech 2 students agreed that it took some time to adapt to drafting for the 3-D printer.
“It was a challenge – at first it’s hard, but after you get used to it, it’s okay,” student Kody Chase said, noting that the work has to be precise to turn out as it should. “My biggest trouble with the project was to rotate the piece [to get the correct angle].”
The first project was a fairly simple one, a three-dimensional pyramid painter’s block. The exercise taught students how to work in three dimensions, while also removing portions rather than simply creating a solid object.
“Not only do the exercises teach use [of the equipment] and challenge students, the products are useful,” Fideldy said, noting that the painters blocks can be used in the ag department. She also gave a set to Math Teacher Jodi Hintz, who is using them as part of a bridge-building project to demonstrate the strength of a triangle.

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