Rob van Nood intended to teach his 5th grade students to design prototypes using 3D software and printing, but wanted the project to have real-world applications. That is when the SAM Labs challenge was created.
Teams of 5th grade students were tasked with creating a product that was a toy, costume/accessory, or that would be helpful around the house or school. Each team had to incorporate at least one SAM Labs Block from the STEAM or Maker Solution and utilize 3D printed parts.
Once brainstorming and sketching with specifications of the design were complete, students made physical models. Initially, Rob’s students made their models using air-dry clay or paper. However, after several of the models fell apart, Rob decided to move his students directly to Tinkercad, a free web app for 3D design.
Rather than teach the class how to use Tinkercad, each group utilized the online tutorial videos and began creating their 3D models within the program. Once their original designs were complete, Rob printed them and showed them to the students to review and measure with calipers to see if the SAM Labs Blocks would fit correctly. “A benefit to this project was learning about being precise – so reprinting became part of the learning process,” Rob reflected. Some prototypes were perfect on the first printing, while others needed 2 reprints for the specifications to be correct.
Even for those that were not all in on this project, Rob stated, “Once they saw their projects printed, each and every student was engaged!” Students requested more flexible filament for watch prototypes, and Rob was able to purchase TPU filament for printing prototypes that would bend.
Rob’s students modified designs to include clear PLA filament to work with SAM Labs RGB LEDs and make flashing wands and a disco box. Even the bin with 3D printed cast offs were pilfered to inspire new ideas and modifications. Once prototypes were printed to the correct specs, final coding was completed using SAM Studio to bring each prototype to life.
The real-world connections, hands-on learning, and student-centered nature of this challenge will have these 5th grade students talking about it for years to come. This was the first time Rob has completed a project of this magnitude with students and 3D printing.
While mistakes were made, they all learned from them. Rob shared that next year, “I hope to get a filament shredder to utilize flawed prototypes into recycled filament.” That takes making mistakes and improving on them to the next level!
Ready to try 3D printing with SAM Labs? Checkout these .stl files that are ready to use! https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1XmeWDFlJiBPBPaox17cfKMmhUiyjM1RI?usp=sharing
Shaunda Douglas is a former educator with over 15 years of experience in all levels of education. In her free time, she reads, plays with her dogs, watches baseball, and loves a good nap.