From One Teacher to Another: Getting Started with 3D Printing in the Classroom

Written by Jessica Pfau, Technology Integration Specialist at Basha Elementary

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My name is Jessica Pfau and I teach technology integration to K-6 students at Basha Elementary in Chandler, Arizona. Our diverse student population also provides me with the opportunity to service exceptional learners in our self-contained classes. 

If you’re looking to start using 3D printing or you want to start a 3D printing program at your school then check out the three suggestions I’ve come up with to best help you in your journey! 

#1 Make Grant Writing Your Second Language

Grants are FREE MONEY, and although they aren’t guaranteed money, they are worth a shot to keep up with the PLA filament you’ll run through on your MakerBot 3D printer. MakerBot Education has gone above and beyond to support teachers in their searching, writing and applying for grants by offering free resources in the MakerBot Grant Guide

MakerBot reached out to teachers to create this resource, so it’s everything you’re looking for all in one place. It’s available for educators and administrators, so no matter who’s taking the lead on grant writing at your site; someone can take advantage of this amazing resource.

I also worked on a Grant Guide webinar with MakerBot where we talked about the best places to apply for a grant and my tips on applying for grants. Check out the webinar here.

MakerBot Educators Guidebook in Jessica Pfau's Class

#2 Take the MakerBot Certification Coursework

There is nothing worse than unboxing your new 3D printer and staring at its beautiful hardware with trepidation. Nobody wants to break their machines accidentally! Knowing you start-off loading filament correctly, calibrating the build plate, making changes to the settings that are helpful for your printer and creating an environment of learning and love of 3D printing is possible with the MakerBot Certified Operator and Certified Curriculum Creator courses! You can learn more about the MakerBot Certification program for both educators AND students here

I know colleagues who try to YouTube their way through the small-scale and large-scale roadblocks that come up with 3D printers only to spend hours weeding through vlogs that aren’t specific to their make or model. 

Spending time calibrating your skills to the MakerBot 3D printer you work with is invaluable; especially when time is so hard to come by as an educator.

 #3 Be the MANAGER of your Students’ Prints

You can be prepared, have your printer, and complete your training but what happens when you have 30+ student designs to 3D print and a limited amount of time?

Based on a workflow that is best practice for our school, students submit a Google form for any print jobs they would like, and I send the print jobs to the MakerBot printers. This is due to the fact that:

1.  Students are not in my classroom full time and teachers do not want their instruction interrupted to have their kids pulled out to begin/end a print job for technical reasons. It is understandable, and my goal is to support teachers, not to impede their curriculum goals.

2. Kids aren’t always around when I start/finish their projects even though they have designed them. My travel schedule is such that oftentimes I must begin/end a print job before/after school hours to expedite print jobs.

3. I can pull together print jobs of the same color to increase output. Giving students the understanding that they may not be able to choose what color their design is printed in can help to streamline the process.

4. I try to catch all student design errors before printing occurs. There are much fewer ‘misprints’ when I run the designs through the MakerBot Print software to scan for mistakes. This helps me save on materials and time in the long run.  

You can use flash drives, local storage, google classroom, Office365 or other workflows that suit your personal preferences.

Takeaway...

The number of skills my students acquired while using MakerBots 3D printers in a short amount of time has been astonishing and it inspired my own professional development as I learned alongside them. My students cannot get enough of 3D printing ー and yours won’t be able to either.

Want to use the same resources Jessica used in her classroom?

Get the MakerBot Replicator+ Educators Edition today. This package includes the Replicator+ 3D printer, a seat in MakerBot Certification for Educators and the MakerBot Educators Guidebook. Request a quote below.

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