LITTLE SILVER: FLOATING BIG IDEAS, IN 3-D

RBR 3D boatsLeft: Fourth graders at Little Silver Point Road School attend a “Google hang-out” session with RBR engineering teacher Dan Pearce as part of a 3-D boat printing project. Right: a successful launch for the finished projects. 

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

What do you do when you have a gifted and talented class that you need to challenge, a math program that needs to be taught to more rigorous standards, and a need to bring more cutting edge technology into your classroom? You combine a math unit on Geometry with a 3D modeling software program, and team with a high school teacher that has the 3D printer to make your students designs a reality. That is what the teachers at Point Road Elementary School (PRS) and Red Bank Regional High School (RBR) in Little Silver did!

PRS teachers Wendy Whittle and Allison Capone introduced the Geometry unit to their fourth grade students, to provide them with a foundation about shapes, angles, and planes. With this knowledge to help guide them, students were introduced to Tinkercad.com, a free online app that the students could use to create 3D models. Tinkercad provides users with self-guided lessons on how to use the program. After the students had completed these lessons, Mrs. Whittle and Mrs. Capone challenged them to design boats that would be tested to see whether they could float and, then, if they could hold extra “cargo” without sinking.

The miniature watercraft designs by Mathias Lazewski and Madelyn Reppert were awarded top honors in the project.

While the fourth graders were working on their designs, Mrs. Whittle had contacted RBR’s Engineering teacher Dan Pearce, who was rumored to have a 3D printer. Mr. Pearce was more than willing to put his Stratasys Dimension SST 768 to use, and volunteered to print out ALL 22 student models. Once this was settled, it was only a matter of putting the student’s 3D boat designs in a shared Google Folder that the two teachers had set up. Then Mr. Pearce spent his own time sizing the designs to print, and operating the printer to get the boats “printed”.

“I was only too happy to assist in this endeavor so that our sending school students could benefit from the resources and knowledge available to their regional high school,” Mr. Pearce commented.

In order for the students to be able to meet Mr. Pearce and for him to show them how their designs were printed, the teachers set a date and time for a Google Hangout. The fourth graders gathered in their school and were connected with Mr. Pearce across town. He showed them how he was able to take their designs, size them for printing and how his 3D printer worked. Mr. Pearce then printed and distributed all the boats to their proud designers.

“The students were fascinated and completely engaged,” Ms. Whittle remarked. “They were amazed to see that what had once been a picture on the screen became something they could actually hold and touch!”

As a final activity, a bucket was filled with water and the boats were tested to see if they could float upright and then hold additional weight. And Eureka! “It worked!”