Youth Design Team Brings Ideas to Life with 3D Design and Printing Intensive

Fifteen students from William Smith High School (including, but not limited to, members of the Studio Youth Design Team) recently participated in a week-long 3D Design and Printing intensive, supported by the Institute of Play and Denver Public Library’s IdeaLAB.

Throughout the week, students used technology tools like TinkerCad, Sketchup, MakerBot, and LulzBot Taz to design and prototype a small object, using parameters dictated by the printers. In the Spring, the group will have the opportunity to use their 3D Design and Printing skills to create a legacy gift for the Studio School.

We began with pre-intensive prep sessions – watching video tutorials of the tech and discussing of what students wanted to try making. For our first two sessions, the group used Chromebooks at William Smith to experiment with TinkerCad. We pulled up online libraries, 3D Warehouse and Thingiverse to search for ideas, and in some cases imported starter models that we then modified.

On day two, we made the journey to the main branch of the Denver Public Library and spent the day in the IdeaLAB with our expert guide Nate, who shared tips and tricks for using TinkerCad, and issued a challenge: those who showed the greatest initiative and creativity in modifying designs online would have their models printed first. Students worked independently to create ideas that would be interesting as a 3D-printed object. Ideas included a cell phone acoustics enhancer, an Eiffel tower with superimposed script, and a human heart.

On the third day, Nate went deeper into SketchUp (which the group unanimously stated was “too hard to use” during our prep sessions). He showed them the best ways to start making original designs without having to rely upon the database of pre-made ideas, including navigational steps and keystrokes to help students easily manipulate objects. With these new skills, the group spent the rest of the day building in SketchUp. The printers continued to run in the background.

The next day, we stopped by the library to pick up our prints and thank Nate. We also spent the morning planning a showcase of our work for Friday. We talked about how the 3D design and printing process might come into play in the Spring when we would dedicate our time to building a legacy gift for The Studio School. The group was interested in the possibility of combining their design skills with fabrication technologies to make something that would live in a Middle School. Our discussion included a big range of ideas, from waterslides and fishtanks, to a music studio or arcade.

On Friday, we hosted a science fair-style meeting where students from other classes could walk from table to table checking out the group’s work, and learning about what is currently possible with free design software and free access to printers at local libraries. They heard about the challenges and promises of this technology and watched the tools in action on videos that we selected to share. The presentation sparked a great deal of interest from students and teachers alike.

This Spring, as the Studio’s Youth Design Team identifies a legacy gift to build, we hope to spark the same curiosity and imagination from middle schoolers that we saw from the William Smith community during the showcase.

Check out the slideshow above to see our students in action!