Jon Benskin, Science Teacher at Boca Raton Community High School, shares his thoughts on how he leveraged the MakerBot CloudPrint software to keep his students connected to 3D printing in a hybrid classroom setting.
As a high school educator, I understand first-hand how difficult it has been teaching over the past year. Teachers are still navigating virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning - or a mixture of these strategies. From adapting curricula, communications, and teaching styles to keeping online students focused, motivated, and engaged, teachers have a lot on their hands to manage.
To make matters worse, teaching without access to the technology and equipment needed can be a massive challenge for STEM educators. In my advanced classes, some of the projects require students to manipulate or analyze physical items – something that has been challenging, or simply impossible, during the school year.
I have been teaching with 3D printing for a while now and it has fortunately allowed us to reach students who attend classes virtually and/or in-person, equally. It lets students who are learning remotely still participate in creative or research projects that require team collaboration and engage with their classmates—whether in-person or online. Although 3D printing requires you to be physically present to get the final product, the design can all be done online through cloud-based applications.
For one of our science projects last year, we incorporated the 3D printer we had in our classroom which lets the students take their research to the next level. There were 10 groups, with each group consisting of one in-person and one virtual student. This really helped to keep the remote students engaged and involved with both the lessons and their classmates.
My students chose to research the structure and function of the coronavirus to help us better understand how to combat and live with the virus. Each group selected a specific protein to study, collaborated on the idea, and designed the protein in a CAD software program. Once it was ready to be 3D printed, the file was prepared and queued up using the MakerBot CloudPrint, a cloud-based application. Through MakerBot CloudPrint, the remote students were able to submit their design files to me to be printed, while the in-classroom students were able to see and feel the final product. It’s no substitute for in-person collaboration, but CloudPrint made it fairly seamless.
MakerBot has really helped us to overcome some of our challenges by creating a platform that has allowed us to work together, save time and streamline the printing process. CloudPrint simplified the 3D printing process in our classrooms during a very complicated time. Because it’s a cloud program and requires no software installation, it can be easily accessed by a wide variety of devices, whether in or out of the classroom - and it still offers the full complement of printing options. Remote students can submit files to be printed in the classroom and then picked up when completed. Cloud-based programs, like CloudPrint, give all students in any instructional setting a chance to learn, feel included, and simultaneously streamline instruction for myself as the instructor.
In addition, with the choice of different filament settings that are seamlessly and automatically integrated into the platform, objects from prototypes to final versions can be printed with ease. Having the flexibility to print with common materials such as PLA all the way to advanced materials such as carbon fiber will allow all students’ ideas, no matter how complex, to come to life as tangible objects. When the CloudPrint platform is paired with the METHOD X, the opportunities for students and instructors are virtually limitless.
Enabling teamwork on projects while still being able to integrate different technologies into the lessons have been a great benefit for my students. In today’s “new normal,” cloud applications that encourage collaboration like MakerBot CloudPrint are essential to classrooms and schools.
Jon Benskin - Science Teacher, AP and AICE Biology, Boca Raton Community High School