Lessons Learned after Teaching almost 200 Kids 3D Modeling for 3D Printing
One of the biggest perks of teaching is learning from the students. Every time a student gets stuck on an issue from one of his or her own design, it gives me a chance to reinforce my own 3D modeling skills because I am usually looking at a design I’ve never seen before. Some issues are simple to solve, so the solution confirms what I know about the 3D model building process that works. Other issues require using the Undo key multiple times to get back to a position that makes sense to both of us in order for us to move forward again. In both cases, it’s a learning opportunity for me as well as the student.
But more specifically, here are three lessons that I’ve learned teaching almost 200 children, age 8-15, over the last three years 3D modeling for 3D printing.
Find a balance between “free rein” and “do this”
While it’s true that 3D printing can turn your ideas into reality, you obviously need an idea first. In every first class, I tell the students to come up with three or four of their own ideas, which they can model and 3D print at a future date, while I teach them the tools. But sure enough, some will be scratching their heads when the time comes, unsure about what they can do. Here, depending on the season, for example, Halloween, I will lead them to a dozen or so new modeling ideas. Given the range of ideas, it’s always interesting to see which design they choose based on the complexity level. You can spot the star students here.
Repeating instructions is a necessity, so be patient
These kids are learning to draw in 3D, “graduating” from the 2D world of pencil and paper. I’ve seen adults struggle with it in my other classes, so it’s not exactly a surprise to see children needing more time to move up the 3D learning curve. If you think they understood how to merge a solid with a hole in Tinkercad, think again. And what about that Revolve tool in Fusion? How does that work again? But when they all fully understand the tool, don’t worry; they will let you know, loudly!
Use cooking as a reference point
I have blogged in the past about “The Wonderful Connection between Cooking and 3D Printing” where I point out that you can build a 3D printable model much like you can cook a dish by following a recipe. But more than this, using cooking as a reference point is very applicable when the children invariably ask to 3D print something they just download off the Internet. “Sorry, no!” I'd say. “I’m teaching you to cook, not to order fast food!” They get it and return to their own designs.