Instructables donated 5 Makey Makeys for our students and parents to play and create. The banana piano, carrot piano, playdoh controller, dance mat, and interactive Minecraft EDU mat were big hits. Thanks to Max and Kyllan for finding a way to create an interactive mat so students could play Minecraft too.
So if there is anything that I have learned with 3D printing, it is to persevere. Failure is a guarantee. I have yet to successfully print each time. A new printer is just another study in perseverance. So yesterday I shared the failures and returned today to look at my mistakes and try again. I needed a day to regroup because failing isn't easy. I think I might have figured a few things out.
So here is a side by side comparison of the printers with the same Tinkercad project. The darker green is from the MakerBot and the light green is from the Cube.
Trying Again - The Cube Software
Update on Progress or Lack of Progress
firmware update refused, extruder missing black piece, build plate leveled but printing still not working - creates clumping
firmware updated, first print almost successful, filament has broken twice in the extruder head, cartridge recognized and then not recognized which causes the print to abort in the middle
turned machine on and off more than 25 times, cannot activate
firmware updated, first print successful, filament has now broken twice in the extruder head, cartridge is touchy and isn't always recognized.... will disconnect in the middle of the print and cause the print to abort (has occurred 3 times this morning), I have reinstalled the cartridge again and will see if it will finally print again.
So here is what I have noticed so far.
The Makerware software is much easier to work with when seeing what it will look like on the print plate, sizing, and exporting. The Cube software seems very rudimentary and not intuitive. It also does not export with a honeycomb into the build which will save you on PLA.
I have struggled to keep the filament on the plate of the Cube Generation 2 whereas the MakerBot Replicator 2 I struggled to remove the final build. I guess I would prefer to fight to get the print off of the build plate instead of fighting to get it on to the build plate. MakerBot is relatively quiet whereas the Cube is rather loud. The MakerBot takes up a substantial amount of space but also has a much larger build plate. All 4 Cubes fit on one table which is really nice for space issues... but it is a much smaller machine.
You decide ... below is the keychain that was designed on Tinkercad. The clear/red is printed on the MakerBot and the bright green is printed on the Cube.
I will continue to troubleshoot and document what is happening. I will continue to navigate these new waters and remind myself that every failure is another opportunity to try again and learn something new.
I know that when we start any venture, we don't realize the path that we are taking. Of course if you attend conferences or follow blog posts, few of us are completely honest about the insanity of being an innovator. So let me put this right out on the table..... 3D printing is amazing.
Let me not tell you about the month that it took me to learn how to use the machine. The failed prints that had to be scrapped off. The time that I almost sliced myself with a razor trying to remove a build from the build plate. My husband having to come and help level the plate multiple times. My colleague who had to take apart her entire 3D printer because it arrived already broken. Now you would think that the company would have wanted their machine back rather than have a customer take apart the machine piece by piece.
Let's talk about the support. What? Support? A company that offered 1 year free support but decided that 60 days would be the new 1 year.
So after a hiatus the month of December, I turned my printer back on.... only to have this happen again. I'm not painting pretty pictures here. When my 3D printer works, there is nothing more magical then watching it print and designing things. When it doesn't work, there is nothing more frustrating then the hours of calibrating, problem solving, and failure. So I ask myself... am I an innovator or INSANEovator? I guess failing is part of learning and frustration will occur when the answer seems unattainable but sometimes the journey seems very rocky like right now.
Two days later.... no response from the company. I have created a work around which allows me to only print small flat objects vertically instead of horizontally. It seems to work as long as only one print happens... which means that every 20 minutes I need to come back and start the next print. So now my ability to print is limited severely by the printer's abilities. Last time I had this issue it took the company several weeks to even respond. We will see if they even respond this time.
I'm ashamed to admit that it took me six months before I feel that I truly created with our 3D printer. I worked with students to help them create using Tinkercad, Blokify, Charmr, and Radiant Li but I never created myself. I was content to watch others, print the designs, and help look at the mistakes but I didn't create. The very premise that I wanted to encourage with my students I failed to do. Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect, Imagine
Why didn't I create? Was I too busy? Was I afraid to fail? I would like to pretend that I was too busy but honestly I could have made time. It was more that I was afraid to fail because that is exactly what I did. I watched this really amazing video about a young man who was teaching his friends how to create keychains and it inspired me to finally create too.
Tinkercad is extremely simple to use. In my design, I used a rectangular prism and stamped letters into it to create the keychain. I learned that I needed to understand what measurements really mean as my keychain was much larger than anyone would desire. But I failed and it made me imagine again what I needed to do to create what I wanted. I also found that because the letters were stamped through, some of the fragile parts fell off so the design that I had imagined needed to be modified. My keychain is now attached to my iPad Mini and it gives me great pride to see what I created even if it wasn't what I imagined.
Sometimes you start an adventure only to realize that every time you talk about your learning, you are inspired by those around you. Our school has been extremely fortunate to have acquired a 3D printer for $100 as well as to have created a community partnership with Radiant Fabrication. Yesterday while presenting at DENapalooza Milwaukee, I realized how fortunate I have been to access this new technology not only to use it with our students but also to share our learning adventure with other educators.
At this time the 3D printer has been used to teach our kindergarten students about new technologies while also looking at how 2D shapes compose 3D shapes. While watching the 3D printer print a selected design for their teacher from Thingiverse, our students assembled 3D printed interlocking triangles to create tetrahedrons and then were given their own interlocking cube or tetrahedron. I sized the stl file on the MakerBot so that I could print many small interlocking shapes so that each student had one. I found that they became pretty fragile when sized too small, which is what I did.
Recently we have started to explore the idea of student designed charms using Charmr. Students in our after-school program really enjoyed this tool as well as colleagues at DENapalooza Milwaukee. The advantages to this type of printing is that it is excellent for entry level creation and prints in a short amount of time. We have created school charms for our rainbow loom because you can copy and paste multiple charms to the build plate and let the printer go.
My journey into 3D printing started four months ago in December when after successfully writing a Donor's Choose grant our MakerBot Replicator 2 arrived at the cost of $100. Before its arrival, I had never even seen something print in 3D and was more than a little skeptical about how 3D printing really had a place in an elementary school setting. But for $100 I set my skepticism aside and decide to dive into the world of 3D printing. I did not realize that it would take me on a journey that I would have never anticipated.
Our MakerBot arrived and I soon learned about Makerware and Thingiverse. Let's not pretend that I had any idea how to do anything but it's amazing what youtube, tinkering, talking with other amazing colleagues, and research can yield. I sat glued to my seat as the first print became reality. Check out an earlier blog post The Beginning and Discovery for details about that.
It wasn't long before the first question and my next blog post "Why do we need a 3D printer in the elementary school?" was asked and answered. Which as you will detect in the blog post, I didn't have any "research-based answer" for.
What the 3D printer did provide was a reason to rethink how I was integrating new technologies for our students. The combination of the 3D printer and the book Invent to Learn created an idea that I would have never anticipated - our SP Design Lab. I realized how important it is that students have a place to create, design, play, and teach. Our Design Lab did not start with the 3D printer because let's be real, I still did not know what I was doing. Sure I was printing things, changing the filament, and pretending that I actually knew something.... but it was not until I started to reach out to others in our community that I really started to learn and see the possibilities.
In January I was juggling too many things between teaching, SP Design Lab, after-school workshops, Minecraft,... you name it I thought I should try it. It was the community around me that helped me to connect with a 3D printer down the street from our school - Radiant Fabrication. Learning is fun that way because the more you learn, the more you talk, the more you share, the more you find others who are excited about the same things. Radiant Fabrication provided a solution to my dilemma of how to provide a platform for students to create their own 3D designs through their software Li. Learn more by reading this short blog post.
Our school hit the local press with an article about 3D printing in schools. Our kindergartners were learning about 2D and 3D shapes. I was invited in to share with them about the 3D printer and how 3D shapes are composed of 2D shapes. Together we printed a design for their classroom and then assembled tetrahedrons and cubes printed by our MakerBot for each of them to take home.
Our after-school program iDesign - 3D Printing and Design started with the support of Radiant Fabrication. I introduced 3D printing through a Discovery Education board that I created for students. It was when the 3D printer and design was placed in the hands of students that the real excitement of this journey started. In an upcoming post, I will share examples of student work.... but here is a brief teaser - Our 3D Printing. You will need a Discovery Education account in order to access the student work.
In the meantime, please access our journey at SP Design Lab.
Anyone who has printed something flat with their 3D printer knows where I am coming from. Even with the painters tape, I have wrestled in my office for hours trying to remove a print from the plate. After running out of finger nails while trying to pry the print off, I resorted to a razor blade. I'm surprised I actually survived myself while the razor blade went flying at my fingers. Finally after hours of trying to remove it, my husband suggested removing the plate and using my desk to pop the print off. It worked as the flying print launched across the room. Three hours later it was liberated. This was with the painters tape being used.
Amy Klubertanz, my genius in residence in our school district, suggested the Cricut Spatula tool which has worked magically so far. Another really great invention is the 3D Ninja Printer Plate. This invention is so amazing and I am getting the chance to try out their product. I am constantly amazed at the cleverness of humankind. I can't wait to try this out on our printer.
One of the greatest things about our school and state community is the generosity that I have found when I write grants. Our PTO has contributed to so much of the technology that we have at our school and they have been no different in their support of our Design Lab. In addition to the PTO, WEMTA awarded our Design Lab a PET grant. Now it is time to spend the money.
Part of the challenge of purchasing for a Design Lab is knowing what will work with students and not investing too much money in something that will not allow learners to take the materials in diverse directions.
Month 1 - December 2013
We started with the MakerBot 3D printer but since no one knew how to use it, it was not what started this journey. Rather it was the one classroom edition that I could afford for Minecraft EDU and one license of Minecraft. It started with $59 ($41 for the classroom edition and $18 for the license). I did not have the money to buy multiple licenses unless I could prove that this would be a good option for our school and students. I visited Fractal and watched Heather use Minecraft EDU with younger students. Heather shared with me so many important settings as well as things to be aware of when using Minecraft EDU with students. The hour that I watched, I learned so much about how to use both the server but also the program. I spent a good amount of time researching (here are some of my resources) only to realize that I just needed to jump in.
Materials - Minecraft EDU
Month 2 - January 2014
I wanted to see what would happen and after reading Invent to Learn, I realized that I needed to start in after-school but I didn't want students who aren't able to participate in after-school to not have the opportunity too. So I looked at what time our computer lab was not being used and opened our Design Lab on three days a week during our lunch recess as our after-school offerings for the month were all ready set.
I quickly learned that many of our students loved Minecraft but were doing it on the iPad interface which required relearning how to move and navigate on the desktop. Also there were many students who had never entered the MInecraft world rather they had heard their friends talking about it and wanted to learn. I spent the month of January watching students. Okay I could tell them how to get into Minecraft EDU, direct connect to the server on my laptop, and basic controls like WASD and the space bar. But I really didn't know much and it was overwhelming to be the oldest non-expert in the room. It became easier to say to students that I didn't know something and they needed to ask each other but at first it was a really uncomfortable for me.
Meanwhile I was teaching myself about 3D printing. I found that I really needed to reach out to other people because I could read a book but that wasn't going to be enough. I needed to tap into those people in my community who already had the expertise. I was lucky enough to connect with Badger Bots who helped connect me with Radiant Fabrication.
Materials - MakerBot Replicator 2 (Donor's Choose), Minecraft EDU (one license and classroom edition), Gamestar Mechanic ($2 per student), Code.org (free)
Month 3 - February 2014
The second month of the Design Lab brought more learning and more financial support. First I realized that it was important to offer the Design Lab three times a week as well as two days after-school. iDesign is the after-school 3D design and printing offering while iCreate was a combination of Gamestar Mechanic, Code.org, and Minecraft EDU. Our school district gave our lab $250 which allowed me to purchase additional PLA filament for the 3D printer, a Makey Makey (which stayed in the box because I was overwhelmed with Minecraft and 3D printing), several sets of legos to do physical 3D designs, and clay.
The second month also brought challenges. With indoor recess, my plan of showcasing the 3D printer while also offering Minecraft EDU could not happen. The other challenge with the 3D printer was that very little of value prints in 30 minutes or less. So I realized that I needed to find a different way to share 3D printing with our students. February was a month of trying different things and watching many of them fail but learning from them.
Materials - MakerBot Replicator 2 (Donor's Choose), Minecraft EDU (one license and classroom edition), Gamestar Mechanic ($2 per student), Code.org (free), legos, clay, PLA filament, one Makey Makey
Month 4 - March 2014
March was the month where all of the learning and connections seemed to come together in a very harmonious way. In March, we realized that we needed to have one day after-school dedicated to Minecraft so we now moved towards having iDesign, iCreate, and Minecraft EDU as after-school choices. First I was fortunate enough to have a colleague connect me with a student who wanted to design different scenarios for Minecraft EDU. Max gave me the opportunity to see what could be done without actually having to invest the time that I did not have. Check out the blog post on Max, my personal lifesaver. My other wonderful connection came in the form of Nathan from Radiant Fabrication who presented on the first after-school date for iDesign and introduced our students to 3D printing and his software Li which uses an interface very similar to Minecraft. In iCreate we focused on Gamestar Mechanic, Code.org, and Scratch.
Our Design Lab also received multiple sources of funds to expand our materials. Through the Code.org challenge of having 17 students complete the course, we received $1000 in Donor's Choose credits which were used to purchase more PLA filament, a Drawdio, a Spinbot, some LEDs, a Makedo kit, and 3 Chromebooks. We also received a $300 funded project through Donor's Choose and the LilySarahGrace Fund for more legos, knex, and art materials. In addition our PTO generously donated over $1000 to purchase a storage cabinet, additional Minecraft licenses as we now know that we can successfully use this software with students and more materials. Lastly our Design Lab received additional funds through the WEMTA PET grant.
Materials - MakerBot Replicator 2 (Donor's Choose), Minecraft EDU (35 license and classroom edition), Gamestar Mechanic ($2 per student), Code.org (free), legos, clay, PLA filament, six Makey Makeys,
Raspberry Pi, Drawdio, Spinbot, Makedo kits, LEDS, batteries
Stay posted for where these new materials will take our learning. Our students are very fortunate to have a community who is supporting our Design Lab (Makerspace).