Taming the Tide of 3D Printing

This year, our STEM program was lucky enough to receive a grant that helped us to get three 3D printers in our computer & STEM labs. My students are all pumped about 3D printing, but getting them to understand the process of 3D design and printing has been a challenge. They see the printer and want to be able to print anything they can imagine right then and there.

In my classes, I’m always striving to get students moving at their own pace and am uncomfortable when I see students all working on the same thing, so I’ve tried to avoid having a one-size-fits-all, everyone-look-up-here lesson about the 3D printer and 3D design. Recently, during a session of my overstuffed afterschool club, Makers Gonna Make, I had swarms of 4th graders inundating me with the same questions, so I created a tool to help students more clearly see the steps in this unfamiliar process.

Enter the “Am I Ready to 3D Print?” flowchart:


screen shot 2019-01-28 at 6.42.07 pm

This simple piece of paper has helped my students to conceptualize the process we use for 3D printing and to track their own progress through the different stages. This afternoon, I had students come in and say, “I know that I won’t be printing today, because I’ve still got 3 steps to go” which was a far cry from the “MUST PRINT NOW!” cries that filled our first session together. I’m excited to roll this out in my general classroom contexts as well, because I think it will help all of my learners better understand the roadmap for getting to print their awesome and creative designs.

If you’re interested in using and/or modifying this document to suit your needs, feel free to grab a copy here!


3 thoughts on “Taming the Tide of 3D Printing

  1. Norah January 29, 2019 / 4:39 am

    What an effective strategy, Nicole. How fortunate your students are to engage in 3D printing.

    • Cultivating Questioners February 8, 2019 / 10:25 pm

      We’ve been incredibly lucky to receive grant funding for our 3D printers. It’s been a great experience to learn alongside my students!

      • Norah February 10, 2019 / 5:03 am

        It sounds like fun!

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