MakerBot Educator Success Story: Doug Ferguson at Martin Sortun Elementary

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Doug Ferguson had no idea what to expect when he was asked to become the STEM Integration Specialist at Martin Sortun Elementary School. The school created this brand new role, a first of its kind, to help advance the school’s STEM curriculums. Ferguson, who taught 5th and 6th grade for ten years, had the freedom to define the role but only had one year to determine how he’d make an impact.

By the end of the year, Ferguson was able to empower STEM teachers, implement fun, standard-approved lessons, and advance learning outcomes using 3D printing. To mark his success, his term was extended another two years and the position was opened in other schools across the state. Now, ten people across Washington state have been hired to fill this role at other schools. Read on to learn how Doug Ferguson is reinforcing STEM education in his town of Kent, Washington and inspiring a new trend across the state.
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“3D Printing addresses a huge number of STEM learning concepts.”

Bringing 3D Printing to Martin Sortun Elementary

After spending some time with friends who work in engineering, Ferguson discovered 3D printing with MakerBot. “The first time I saw it, I said, “Wow, 3D printing addresses a huge number of STEM learning concepts,”’ Ferguson says. Determined to secure a MakerBot for the school’s technology lab, he turned to DonorsChoose.org, a popular education-focused crowdsourcing network. Over the next two years, Ferguson would use funding from DonorsChoose and several independent grants to purchase a MakerBot Replicator 2, a MakerBot Replicator, and 6 MakerBot Replicator Minis. In collaboration with Martin Sortun’s classroom educators, Ferguson has since incorporated 3D printing into everyday lessons for grades 3 through 6.

Building Exciting New STEM Curriculums

“Because the printers pretty much work right out of the box, they are user-friendly enough that our teachers are comfortable using them.”

As a STEM Integration Specialist, Ferguson conducts 3D printing trainings for the school’s staff, coaches educators in building new STEM curriculums, and co-teaches 3D printing lessons. “Because the printers pretty much work right out of the box, they are user-friendly enough that our teachers are comfortable using them,” Ferguson explains. “MakerBot’s efforts to produce resources like instruction manuals and webinars have helped as well.” He also provides on-site professional development for any teachers who might need extra help implementing new technology into their lessons.

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Ferguson also teaches an enrichment class for 5th graders who are excelling in Math. He uses MakerBot solutions to challenge them with more advanced projects. In his lessons, students use 3D printing to help them perform tasks that involve calculating decimals, performing long division, scaling measurements, maximizing areas, and more.

3D Printing Lessons That Make an Impact

Using MakerBot, Ferguson could seamlessly integrate multiple STEM subjects into cohesive, standard-approved projects. “3D printing is a great way to make abstract mathematical concepts concrete. It helps us explore measurements, fractions, decimals, area, perimeter, and volume in engaging ways. These topics are all congruent with Common Core Math standards,” Ferguson says.

These projects also incorporate concepts found in Next Generation Science Standards. “We also cover Crosscutting Concepts in Science where we explore patterns found in ideas and nature. We’re able to identify problems and develop solutions. The last area we focus on is Disciplinary Core Ideas, where we explore engineering design standards that are universally applicable for use in 3D printing.” With these 3D printing projects, Ferguson could build strong, layered STEM foundations in uniquely engaging ways.

“The new Thingiverse Education page shows a strong dedication to supporting educators… I haven’t seen this level of outreach, support, and interest in education from any other 3D printing companies.”

Now 3D printing savvy, Martin Sortun’s educators regularly use TinkerCad and Thingiverse to help them jumpstart new 3D printing lessons. “TinkerCad is extremely user-friendly. And Thingiverse has a vibrant educator community that helps us with finding new activities. It’s a great resource to use when you don’t have time to start things from scratch.”

These resources have given educators the confidence to think outside of the box and use their expertise to create exciting new lesson plans. Past projects include creating balloon cars, earthquake resistant structures, energy grid simulations, cube volume measurements, buoyancy lessons, and more. “The new Thingiverse Education page also shows a strong dedication to supporting educators… I haven’t seen this level of outreach, support, and interest in education from any other 3D printing companies.”

What Lies Ahead

Ferguson’s new position was only guaranteed to last one year. Now, thanks to his success advancing STEM at Martin Sortun Elementary, he’s been asked to return for his third year in a row. “I’d say integrating 3D printing has helped,” Ferguson says. “3D printing is a great application of our elementary standards. It provides a very strong standards-based opportunity for technology integration.” He’s also mentioned that the process of transforming a student’s thought or idea into a physical reality is “powerful,” and believes it adds a new level of engagement for students.

“3D printing prepares students with advanced knowledge of rapid prototyping, basic engineering, design, and problem-solving by asking students to invent solutions for their everyday lives.”

Ferguson plans to continue using 3D printing as a tool for preparing students for jobs of the future. “I’ve read in many places that our Kindergartners will grow up to find that possibly more than 50% of jobs they face in the future don’t exist as of right now,” he says. “3D printing prepares students with advanced knowledge of rapid prototyping, basic engineering, design, and problem-solving by asking students to invent solutions for their everyday lives.” In his role, Ferguson will continue to empower teachers, inspire students, and make an impact on the future of STEM learning at his school. As a MakerBot Educator, he’s positioned to achieve more than ever before with fast, reliable, classroom-ready 3D printing.

To dig deeper into how 3D printing can be applied to your STEAM curriculum, check out the free lesson plans, tips, best practices, and more at Thingiverse Education!