Thursday, February 19, 2015

They'll Show Me How

After getting the 3D printer from our grant, we set it up and printed off two of the demo items that came with the printer. Everything worked out A-OK. Making the leap from printing demo items to printing student creations was a whole other ballgame. We had to figure out the process. We had to create a diagram in TinkerCad, export it in the correct file format, import it into the XYZ proprietary software, and somehow get it to print. Once we figured out that workflow, we'd be in business.

During third hour, I approached Yensen and Ethan to see if they wanted to re-print the logo that they created on the eighth grade 3D printer. I figured that they already printed on the MakerBot printer and might be able to figure out the work flow on our printer without me having to spend hours solving the problem. While Ethan worked on other things, Yensen and Evan, another computer whiz, worked tirelessly for an hour to work out a viable process. By the end of the hour, those two had to get to another class. While they made progress, we still could not print.

Yensen working on the solution

At the beginning of the next class, Jacob asked if the printer was ready to print yet. I told him, "Sadly, no. If you want to try to solve the problem, give it a shot. Yensen worked on it last hour but couldn't get it. Want to try?" 

"Sure, I'll do it!" he said. 

"I want to do it!" Quin added.

Jacob and Quin got into the programming, looking for a viable work flow in order to print. They managed to get the design exported in the .stl file format and imported into the XYZ software. From there, they worked through the steps that seemed obvious to them, and lo and behold, the printer fired up. Not knowing if this was another dead end or a "Eureka!" moment, we waited. The light came on in the printer, the printer started heating up, and finally we heard the sound of the machine preparing to print. Wow! Our printer was humming along. After ninety minutes, the pieces for Yensen's and Ethan's 20% Time project were printed out on the platter. They had done it. "Jacob, Quin, you guys have to show me how you did that," I said. 

Jacob and Quin troubleshooting the printer software

"It's pretty easy," they chimed. Well, easy or not, I figured that they'll show me how. Since that print, we printed out the pieces of a house that one of our students, Ben, is using to design new, sustainable architecture. His prints were near perfect and he is now in the process of assembling them. All in all, this has been a cool week of learning.

Fiona watching through the side window as Ben's model house prints

Several students watching the 3D printer work

Some of our products

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