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[Educator Spotlight] Beverly Owen's Thoughts on the MakerBot SKETCH Classroom

"I started using the SKETCH Classroom five months ago, and kept them running all day, every day. These printers are workhorses - hundreds of hours later, they are still consistently printing without issue." - Beverly Owens

Setting up the two SKETCH 3D printers at home
Setting up the two SKETCH 3D printers at home

New to 3D Printing?

Don’t worry - the Sketch Classroom comes with training and support!

As a teacher, I had access to two levels of training from the MakerBot Certification program: Operator and Curriculum Creator. The Operator course walked me through the basics of 3D printing. But the great thing is, my students also had access to this course! As a part of Sketch Classroom, students get ISTE-certified training through the MakerBot certification program, just like the teacher does. The certification includes different video clips to help Operators learn about the structure of a 3D printer, and to learn the ins and outs of 3D printing. The certification course is easy to navigate, and even veteran MakerBot users will gain new insight from this certification. And, you get a cool digital badge when you’re finished!

Student going through a TinkerCad lesson from the MakerBot Certification program.
Student going through a TinkerCad lesson from the MakerBot Certification program.

The Operator certification also includes a tutorial on 3D design using TinkerCAD. I have never been good at using CAD software, and I certainly never considered myself a “designer.” I was resigned to the fact that all I would ever be able to do was download files to print from Thingiverse. However, this is one of the main parts of the Sketch Classroom offering that is empowering. Through the certification process, I learned how to design things using TinkerCAD, and I was challenged to complete the tutorials demonstrating this skill. Just today, I took one of my toddler’s drawings, converted it to an SVG file, and then imported it TinkerCAD to print as a gift. Can you imagine 3 dimensionally printing out a child’s drawings? Or what about printing a 3D model of a 2D drawing that one of your students had created? The possibilities are limitless!

There is also a second step in the certification process, which is the Curriculum Creator. This training provides educators with information related to teaching students about 3D printing, utilizing educational materials in Thingiverse, and provides additional resources that may be helpful in integrating 3D printing or design into your classroom. And at the end of this certification program, you can download the “Curriculum Creator” badge to 3D print!

Setting It Up

The Sketch Classroom printers were amazingly simple to set up. The printer was well-packaged, and after removing a few pieces of packaging material and tape, the printer was ready to go! As I opened the packaging, the tools, build plates, and filament were toward the top of the packaging, and nestled underneath was the printer. Each printer comes with two large spools and one small spool of PLA - both sizes of filament can be housed in an external compartment on the side of the printer.

Printing with SKETCH

Sketch 3D Printer extruding filament
Sketch 3D Printer extruding filament

There are several options for printing. While you can connect directly to your computer to print, my favorite ways of printing are using a USB stick, or the MakerBot CloudPrint. If you have never used MakerBot Print, it is very user-friendly. Import your stl file, choose the appropriate printer settings, select Sketch as your printer, and then export your file for printing.

Another amazing feature that is available is MakerBot CloudPrint. Through this cloud-based tool, you can print to your Sketch using wifi. If I need to check on a print in the evening, sometimes I will log in to CloudPrint and check the print status while doing tasks around the house, even while I’m cooking dinner! Having primarily used a USB stick in the past to print files, I find myself often doing that now. However, one really neat feature about the Sketch printers is that once you select the file to print, even sending it from MakerBot CloudPrint, the Sketch copies the file to its internal memory. This allows you to remove the USB to get your next print rendered and exported!

SKETCH's Control Panel

The Sketch printers have a touch screen control panel, and the symbols and directional features provided are very intuitive. My four-year-old daughter loves to select files and start prints for me. It’s just that easy.

I’ve used the MakerBot certification with middle school students and will be using it again this year with my 11th graders. The Sketch printer is easy to use and has great functionality. If you’re looking for an affordable 3D printer option, the Sketch Classroom program is perfect - two printers, filament, tools, as well as certification access. You can’t beat that!

Beverly's Tips

➜ If your filament runs out mid-print, don’t fret! This happened to me a couple of times. When this occurred, I told the printer to continue running the filament, through “load filament.” This ensured that the remainder of the filament in the nozzle would extrude to prevent it from jamming the extruder. Then, I loaded the new filament.

➜ The build plate has great adhesion! If your print gets stuck on the build plate, you can flex the build plate - it bends! As a secondary measure, you can use the spatula that is included to lift the corner of your print.

➜ Use a raft when printing - they remove really easily.

Closing Thoughts on the SKETCH Classroom

Empowering. That term perfectly describes the MakerBot Sketch Classroom program. Whether you are new to 3D printing, a veteran MakerBot guru, or someone who just wants to enhance their printing skills, the SKETCH Classroom was designed for you.

Extra: Starting the Year off in a Hybrid Classroom

Since the school year is starting off with a hybrid classroom, I created a video to help my students learn 3D printing with the Sketch 3D printer, even while learning from home, please feel free to use this video if students are learning about 3D printing remotely. Here's a project to help your students get started!

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