With flashy new 3D printers lacking a home, students in Ms. Nieman’s 5th grade class at Leeds Elementary school took it upon themselves to put their math and design skills to work. Students had recently explored construction ideas through a field trip to a construction site. Ms. Nieman shared, “We were fortunate enough to take a walking trip to a nearby building site and tour it with the contractor. Students saw state-of-the-art building techniques first hand, from inside the immense housing structure.” When given the opportunity to do some construction of their own, they jumped on the idea.
Starting with brainstorming guidelines brought to them by Tech Engineering, students began their research on chromebooks, exploring already designed carts in small groups. When a selected number of designs were chosen, students began working to adapt these designs into custom drawings using the Google Draw tool on their chromebooks. With the shapes and color fill tools a number of unique, clever designs emerged. Each group then selected a favorite design and built a prototype to present to the whole class. These prototypes were constructed with popsicle sticks, index cards, creativity and a splash of glue. As a collective class, hearty discussions took place regarding design principles, which ones looked best and which elements they liked most before the class voted on the final cart design.
Using rulers, the Smartboard and their Google Drawings, students had to calculate the appropriate lengths and widths to the parts needed for construction. Then Tech Integration Specialist, Mrs. Mariani-Prall, purchased the wood, cut the parts down and provided the students with an instruction manual to follow to put the pieces together. With nail guns and sanders, the students got to work, constructing their very own carts.
“The part I really liked about building the cart was sanding and teamwork,” Finn shared.
“My favorite part of the building process was seeing students who, in the traditional academic classroom setting, struggle to stay on task, become completely in tune and focused on this project! It was transformational!” Mrs. Mariani-Prall shared.
Jumping right in, Ms. Nieman shared, “After an hour of work screwing together a wooden box, and not squaring it up, I called “break time,” mostly for me as a few hearty kid souls were still trying to figure out the problem. Five minutes later, I abandoned my teacher hat and stepped into the fray this time, tearing apart the work and re-squaring the base while students held down the sides and squared the corners with a 90 degree cornering tool. I was just another one of the kids at that point, working shoulder to shoulder with my smaller colleagues.”
Students did not stop with just the construction however, they went on to apply paint, brightening the carts to a nice blue and orange, and are currently working on developing knobs for the drawers in the 3D modeling software. Soon, coming full-circle the printers will be humming along as they print out the handles that will be secured to the drawers storing the filament and tools needed for the printers, and for the last step of the project.
When asked to reflect over the project, student Warner said, “My favorite part was designing the models and then putting it altogether and I liked the teamwork. We got a lot done and I’m surprised it didn’t take us longer than it took us.” While Cody shared, “I think my favorite part was just imagining it and putting it into a real cart knowing that your project can turn into something that everyone can use.” Soon the carts will be seen rolling down the hall as other students get to build models using Tinkercad and the 3D printers right from their own classroom.
Written by Molly McLoughlin