17 January 2014

Can You Print an iPhone?

Today, our S.T.E.M. students had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Lester Towell, who is the Department Chair of Computer Information Systems at Howard Payne University. Mr. Winter made the connection using Skype in the Classroom. After a few emails back and forth, we found a convenient time for us to connect. Our students came up with question for Dr. Towell earlier this week and that's where we began. 

Here are the questions they came up with:

  1. How do you make a 3D printer?
  2. What’s the coolest thing you ever printed?
  3. When was the first 3D printer made?
  4. How did you learn about 3D printing?
  5. What is your favorite software to use for creating 3D models?
  6. Can you create a 3D printer that creates a 3D printer?
  7. Can someone build a 3D printer themselves?
  8. Did you ever print something to eat?
  9. What is the cheapest 3D printer?
  10. Can you print anything electrical?
  11. When was the first 3D printer made?
  12. Can you print an iPhone?

We learned so much! For example, it's possible to build your own 3D printer. The technology used in 3D printing is older than I thought it would be. Engineers are working on creating self-replicating 3D printers (how cool!). And while it's not possible right now, it's definitely plausible that within 5 years, we might be able to print an iPhone.

I'm so thankful to have technology that allows us to connect with experts outside of our school. We chatted with Dr. Towell for about forty minutes and I think the students could have kept asking him questions for another hour! He very graciously offered to chat with us again in a few months.

Our next goal is to find someone we can talk with about LEGO robotics. Have any suggestions?

10 January 2014

S.T.E.M. Class Off to a Great Start

Today was the first day of our S.T.E.M. class. I don't know who was more excited, the students or me. We were scheduled to have our first class on Tuesday, but the polar vortex interfered with our plans. It was difficult to wait until this afternoon, but we managed. Just barely though.

What we're doing in our S.T.E.M. class is all new to me, so I'm lucky to have lots of help; Mrs. Franks helps lead our Tuesday classes and Mr. Winter is with us on Fridays. Today, he helped us get off to a great start with some short videos highlighting the infinite possibilities of 3D printing. Our students were able to see a 3D printed hand, a car, and a hamburger. And if that doesn't cover the spectrum, what does? After the videos, it was clear the students were both amazed and chomping at the bit to get started. But we made them wait just for a few more minutes. They knew I was printing a heart shaped box and they were all dying to get their first look at our 3D printer in action. Still, we wanted to really get them thinking about the implications of this new technology. So, we had a short discussion about what 3D printing might mean for the future, as it becomes more and more commonplace. The students had lots of ideas and even more questions. 

We spent the rest of our time looking at the handful of completed prints, sorting six boxes of LEGO robotics pieces, and daydreaming about what projects were soon to be born. As we passed the prints around the group, the students started listing off ideas for what they could create and print. Like me, the found the linked chain and the box the most fascinating of what we've printed so far. The only preloaded object we haven't yet printed is the octopus. We'll print that one Tuesday. 

Next Friday, Mr. Winter has arranged for us to Skype with a professor who knows all about 3D printing. I can't wait to hear the questions our students have and to learn from someone who is an expert in the field. Our S.T.E.M. class is off to a great start! To say the students are motivated is an understatement. They are over the top excited about what we're going to be learning over the next four and a half months. And so am I!