Crestwood Middle School seventh-grader Beck Han’s bright blue earbud attachments, created on a 3-D printer, fit nicely over science, technology, engineering and math teacher Breanna Yarnott’s ears. She even modeled them in class.
The attachments address the problem of earbuds falling out when their wearers are running, Beck said. To make them better he decided he could smooth out the edges and make customized sizes. He learned a lot by designing and printing the prototype on a 3-D printer with his group in the Kentwood Public Schools STEM class.
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“That way you don’t have to pay the $100 for Beats,” he said, referring to designer Beats by Dre earbuds.
Yarnott recently exposed her students to 3-D printing and its potential uses. She used a printer loaned from Kent ISD for a project in which students designed items, using the design and printer app Tinkercad. They made MP3 player holders, phone cases, desk organizers and other gadgets to sell in the school store.
Yarnott said students’ innovation and creativity emerged as they worked toward creating things that have a function.
“They came up with really great things,” she said. “If I could have my own 3-D printer, the way kids could use it is unlimited.”
Yarnott’s wish could come true. Getting 3-D printers into classrooms is exactly the goal of the 3-D Printer Challenge. Kent ISD is partnering with international manufacturer Dremel, West Michigan businesses and organizations to bring 3-D printing to classrooms.
Businesses are challenged to select a district and school and contribute $3,000 to purchase a printer and printing supplies for a classroom.
A Direct Link to Careers, Businesses
The partnership goes beyond just a donation. Business representatives are invited to help teachers with lesson plans involving 3-D printing, exposing students to careers in the STEM field.
Jay Dunwell, president of Wolverine Coil Spring Co., donated money for a printer for Union High School, in Grand Rapids Public Schools. He said the technology gives students opportunities in product development and testing, using the same basic process as today’s advanced manufacturers.
“These hands-on experiences allow the students to explore the world of manufacturing and the challenges faced by those in the career path,” Dunwell said. “Speaking as a manufacturer challenged with finding talent, my hope is this exploration sparks an unending interest in manufacturing careers. Or just as importantly, the student realizes this may not be a career path for them.”
Kevin Stotts, president of Talent 2025, said he’s excited about the challenge and its link to potential jobs and careers.
“We’re involved with K-12 education to make sure students in middle and high school can utilize technology to help them learn, and connect what they learn in the classroom to real-world applications,” Stotts said. “The 3-D printer is a great tool for teachers to connect with math, visual arts, design and to produce something.”
‘If I could have my own 3-D printer, the way kids could use it is unlimited.’ — Breanna Yarnott, teacher, Crestwood Middle School
Teachers work closely with Kent ISD STEM consultants Rick Mushing and Ebiri Nkugba, who help them design a professional development plan that includes using the the printers and integrating 3-D printing with academic standards.
“Businesses have frequently expressed the need for students who are good problem-solvers,” Mushing said. “The practice of designing 3-D models and creating 3-D prints gives students the opportunity to be problem-solvers, creators and builders. For students, it is very gratifying to hold a physical part they created from inception to a final product.”
At Crestwood Middle School, Beck said he wants to be an engineer and 3-D Printing gave him a great experience in product design.
“This definitely enhanced the experience,” he said. “It gives you a little taste of what you’ll do in the future; like if you want to do business, you have to design what you want to do, make it and perfect it.”