Who are the students in my 3D Printing classes?

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At a handful of schools and maker spaces in Hong Kong, I teach a paid, after school class for students interested in the STEAM subjects. The class is quite popular. In the most recent school term, 65 students applied for 36 seats. I guess I must be doing something that has really struck a chord with these students. So who are they? 

How young can they be? 

All students range from 8 to 15 but quite a few parents have come to me asking if their own five or six year old child can learn 3D modeling for 3D printing. The short answer is yes. But there are a few reasons why I think they should wait until they are eight or older. First, working in 3D space can be a challenge, even for adults. It’s why I always teach Navigation in the first lesson. Looking at a flat, 2D computer screen, we are conditioned to see only what’s in front of our eyes and little else. We forget that all six sides of the model also need to fit into its overall structure. And because we are passively using a 2D point of view, the model looks intact when in fact it simply isn’t. 

A floater

Floaters

I’ve seen quite a few student models with “floaters,” or parts, such as a star or some text, that should be attached to another part of the model, but is hanging freely in 3D space. In all cases, these floaters are clearly part of the overall model, but because they forgot to take the two seconds to orbit around their model for a quick check, it’s simply incomplete. (And when they discover this issue, it’s usually time to catch the school bus!) Depending on their numbers, floaters are relatively easy to fix. But it gives you an idea of the students’ abilities. 

Mouse Control

Another reason why I think children should start 3D modeling at age 8 or older is because of mouse control. Perhaps this is my own shortcoming as a teacher, but I don’t use iPads to teach 3D modeling. I prefer a cursor on a laptop because it is far more exact, while you can also take advantage of the shortcuts available from a full keyboard. Should I consider a pen on an iPad? This is a fair question, but it also means there should be enough 3D modeling software available, which are fewer than for laptops. Maybe one day in the future, but not now.

A need for mouse control

The one 3D model that I always start my lessons with, after Navigation, is a simple Table. As simple as this model is, you will be surprised how many students cannot get the legs to line up with the corners of the table top. I think only about 20% of the students were able to get it on their first try. Why is this? An arts teacher once told me young children are not good at measurements. I guess children are still developing their sense of spatial intelligence. With a mouse/cursor, I am hoping this tool can give the children a way to develop this sense. Even if they are still developing their spatial sense, it’s important a tool is available to help in the development. 

In the future, I suspect 3D holograms will replace the mouse for 3D modeling. But that is another story altogether.

More to come!

What if Your Kids Were Right?

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PART I: THE ORIGINAL IDEA OF A 6 YEARS OLD BOY.

On April 26, 2016 I published an article about some discussions my son and I had frequently about the Moon and Mars and how we could use a 3D printer there (if you can read Moliere’s language, french, here is the link to it). The main subject was to, one day, use a 3D printer with recycled material made from things that became useless or from raw material directly collected on the surface of the planet or deeper in the crust. Why doing that instead of using new material especially made for the printer? Well, let’s say that because 1 kilo of freight still requires more than 8 kilos of propellant for a little trip to mars, it makes the freight cost quite expansive.

PART II: SCIENCE PROGRESS TOWARD THE REALIZATION OF HIS IDEA

In April 2018, I wrote another article around the same topic: How can we get cheap material to 3D print what we would need once arrived on another planet (As this article is in Shakespeare’s language, it should be easy for you to read it following that link). Researchers in the Canadian University of Calgary had found a way to transform the production of your digestive track into a solid material that will work very well in a SLS 3D printer.

Markus Kayser and his great invention, the Solar Sinter, was in my article too. Using the energy from the sun and the sand from the desert to 3D print objects was genius.

PART III: WE NEVER GOT CLOSER

And the story just got one more chapter thanks to the great work at the Tethers Unlimited Company. These guys created the Refabricator. A few weeks ago, it was delivered to the International Space Station (ISS). The name of the machine speaks by itself. Something useless that was fabricated before can be transformed in raw material to re-fabricate something with it. In the size of a refrigerator, you get together a 3D printer and a recycling machine that can feed directly the printer to re-use, for example, the packaging of the scientific equipment you just got from the delivery boy on his space scooter.

PART IV: THE REFABRICATOR II CAN ALSO 3DPRINT USING CRUSHED ROCKS

Of course the Refabricator II doesn’t exist (yet…). But someday, in one or two years from now, I will write a fourth article about the concretization of an idea my son had when he was about six years old. The title will be “From a little boy’s dream to reality”. He will be reassured that having creative ideas is a good thing. Great ideas rarely comes from following the main road.

I encourage you all to foster the creativity of your kids and discuss any topics they find interesting to them, even the craziest ones. It will be good for them and for us, parents.

What’s the best way to teach 3D printing in schools?

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After sharing with you my Lessons Learned after Teaching almost 200 Kids 3D Modeling for 3D Printing in my earlier blog, I now want to do two things:

  1. Share with you in greater detail how I’ve been teaching kids (age 8 and older) 3D modeling for 3D printing and
  2. Examine if I can do it better (your input would be greatly appreciated!)

Cubing from writing 

But let’s start with the questions that I need to ask. Writers and journalists commonly practice various forms of “cubing,” which, aside from being a coincidentally 3D concept, can help me work through the tasks mentioned above. So here are the questions I want to address in the coming months based on these six basic aspects.

The Whos

Who are the students involved? How young can they be? Do they need to have a special skill set, such as good math skills, to learn 3D modeling? Should they have a certain type of proclivity, such as a love for science? Should they be inquisitive? Does extraversion matter? Can they work in a team with their peers?

Who is a suitable teacher to train kids 3D modeling for 3D printing? (Am I a suitable teacher?!) What should their skill set be? Do they need a STEAM background? Do they need an art background?

https://3dinsider.com/3d-printing-schools/

The Whats

Which 3D modeling software should we teach? Should we differentiate based on the students’ age? Can we teach other modeling software at the same time? Is it worth teaching how to use slicing software? Which one or ones? 

Where

Does the school have a Maker Space, or something close to it? Does the space provide the sufficient IT infrastructure? What brand 3D printer(s) do they have? How are the laptops? Can they properly run the needed 3D modeling and 3D slicing software? What about the virtual classroom?

https://3dprint.com/117138/stratasys-free-curriculum/

When

How often can we run 3D printing classes? How long should each class be? Are there benefits to weekend sessions? What about school holidays? What about during the regular class sessions as opposed to after school?

Why

Do you really need to ask?! Because we love 3D printing! But we should ask: how can we get the kids just as excited about it?

How

This is the million-dollar question. How exactly should we teach 3D modeling for 3D printing to kids? How fast can we deliver the information? How much can they absorb in a given amount of time? How useful is repeating the same exercises? Would they be able to apply what they learned quickly? How can we direct them to the more practical applications of 3D printing, especially when most desktop 3D printers just print plastic? How can we sustain their interest?

OK let’s look at the answers in the coming months! If you want to add your own questions, feel free to comment below!

“Open Source 3D creation. Free to use for any purpose, forever”. What is that???

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What a great statement for a title. Do you know what is it? Read bellow for the answer.

THE UB IWERKS AWARD 2019

One of the “Creative Tools for the Mind” our kids and us use just got a special reward: the Ub Iwerks Award (Ub Iwerks created, among others, the character of Mickey Mouse). It is given to honor individuals or companies for technical advancements that make a significant impact on the art and industry of animation.
Past recipients of this award include Dr. Ed Catmull for his breakthrough technologies at Pixar, Scott Johnston for his innovative work in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Digital Domain, Inc. for their groundbreaking innovations in Titanic, and Eric Daniels for the development of the ‘Deep Canvas’ process for Walt Disney’s Tarzan.

TON ROOSENDAAL, A VISION DRIVEN LEADER

This award was given to none other than Ton Roosendaal, the genius creator of Blender. Of course the amazing Blender community of developers, artist and users of almost any age you could imagine made this 3D creation suite what it is. But if it has survive since the 90s and grew up to become one of the most look after software in the 3D animation industry, it is mostly thanks to the leader of the “Blender tribe”, Ton.

BLENDER 2.8 = 3D MODELING + 3D PRINTING + 2D & 3D ANIMATION + VR + AR…

Imagine that our kids can learn from 3D modeling to 3D printing and even 2D and 3D animation, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality without paying anything for the software. Even if a beginner can easily found his way through Blender (especially the last version Blender 2.8), more and more big animation studio use it among their tools. Artists, engineers, scientists, schools and many others use it as well. If it is good for them, it is good for our kids.

Dear parents, the vision we share of a World with proactive, open minded and creative kids just got rewarded.
Have a great day!

3D Creation Apps Recommended for Aspiring Designers

3D Creation Apps Recommended for Aspiring Designers

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It is clear now that doing 3D modeling on a computer is a great and beneficial activity for the development of the brain of our kids (very effective for adults as well!).

Autodesk alone in the sky.

Tinkercad main screen

Until recently, Autodesk was somehow alone in the sky with no real competition to challenge its Tinkercad web-based 3D modeling software. And Tinkercad is great. Very intuitive and simple to use. Kids love it. But being unchallenged is not very healthy in the long run. Some real adversity is good to stay sharp and give the best it can.

A real competitor is arriving on the “3D Modeling Software for Kids” market (and it is a big player!)

Many among you will know, and maybe have used, another really powerful software named Solidworks, used mostly by professionals around the globe for more than two decades. Like Fusion 360, it is awesome to do parametric modeling (you create your model following precise steps and parameters like size, shape…). As it is not at all for beginners, kids would have a hard time trying to use it to create a model of their own.

Shape It from Solidworks Apps for Kids

Fortunately, at Solidworks, they worked hard to develop new tools especially for kids. They choose a different path than Autodesk. Instead of a complete software with many tools immediately available right after the child is connected to a web-based software, they developed a cluster of very simple and efficient apps. For example, if you want to create a new model, you launch Shape It. In an instant, you have the ability to model something with mostly a sculpting tool. You have very few options available. It is your imagination and some virtual clay at play. Which is wonderful for beginners. You just have to learn one simple tool to have fun. The interface is very clean with just a few buttons.

Cube Print to the rescue!

And if you are happy with the result, just launch Print it. You have the choice to 3D print it if you have a 3D printer available. If you don’t have it in your backpack, don’t worry, they get you covered! They have a funny surprise for you. You can Cube Print your creation. A regular 2D printer using regular flat sheets of paper is sufficient. Once printed, you just have to cut following the outer line around the model. You use some glue to stick together the faces. And you get a nice cube made of paper with a picture of the model on each face. The front face with the front view of your model, the top face with the top view, and so on. A marvelous idea to use 2D images to see in “3D like”. Your kids will love it.

Cube Print

Which one is the best for your kids?

As a 3D modeling enthusiast, I love them all. But for a complete beginner, I would recommend to start with the SolidWorks Apps for Kids. It will help your kids to be at ease with a 3D model on a screen. They will be much more comfortable to do more advanced models faster than you would have dream of it. Tinkercad would be the natural next step.

Encourage your kids to play with them all. The way to create a model in 3D is different but the goal is the same: allow our children to become creative masters, to think critically, to make mistakes and learn to persevere.

The road will be long for our children and with many bumps along it. If a simple and yet so powerful activity like 3D modeling for 3D printing can help them live an interesting and engaging life and see the world in a more creative way, let’s do it!

P.S.: www.swappsforkid.com has just been released and is at the beta stage of development (the last one before the official release). Try it anyway. It is a good one. I’ll tell you when it will be at full speed and will do a complete review at the same time.

My BIG Plan for 2019

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OK I’ve been involved in 3D printing for four years now and so it’s time to take things up a notch with my BIG PLAN for 2019: pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam. What is the FE Exam and why am I taking it? In the USA, the FE exam is typically used by college engineering students as a prerequisite before taking the Professional Engineering (PE) exam in order to be a fully licensed, nationally recognized engineer. But I’m taking the FE exam because it’s a prerequisite for me before I sit for the US Patent Agent exam. What’s the connection to 3D printing? Let me explain!

Since the 1980’s, product designers have been using 3D printing technology to prototype products for their companies. Today, anyone, even kids, can design a product using freely available 3D modeling software, which they can then prototype using extremely affordable 3D printers. But beyond this, kids can also apply to patent their product design! The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shows how China and the USA lead the world in terms of patent grants with around 400,000 and 300,000 issued respectively in each of the last three years, so I will start with the US Patent Office exam.

If I can pass the FE exam, it will be a great first step to getting a US Patent Agent license. As a Patent Agent, I will be looking forward to helping anyone with a product idea apply for a US patent (including myself of course!). For the young students I have been working with, this will help them in three seriously important ways:

1. Learning from failure. American inventor Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” During his lifetime, Edison accumulated 2,332 patents worldwide (1,093 in the USA) for his inventions. Obviously, not only did he embrace failing, but he also very likely learned from his failures in order to proceed to the next step. I think learning to cope with failure is a great lesson for young students, a skill they can use throughout their lives. Prototyping their ideas via 3D printing can provide this invaluable training as they work through different design iterations.

An eternal optimist

2. Help on college applications. Obviously, securing a patent will look great on a college application. (In fact, the US Patent Office confirmed to me via email that they have issued patents to minors in the past.) But we also know that securing patents takes a lot of dedication and hard work for the inventor; patents are only granted to truly original ideas and designs. But I would argue that a college application with a series of unsuccessful patent applications could also be just as competitive as a successful application. Why? Because failures are just part of any success story. As Edison also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Show the college admissions board your failures and your ideas to improve on your designs. They will be impressed by your sheer tenacity.

Edison’s most famous patent

3. College financial assistance. In the start-up world, securing a patent is one of the key ways to locking in investor interest and capital investments. Patents also play a key role securing a licensing deal to earn royalties. In either scenario, there are definitely ways to monetizing your patent. With college tuition costs skyrocketing in the last decades, families need ways to counteract these inflationary forces. Proto-typing and securing a patent could be a seriously viable method to doing so.

Can kids really get a patent? With ever-affordable and accessible 3D printing technology, we certainly have the tools necessary to rapid prototype almost any product idea. Just like how computers were once owned only by huge companies with deep pockets, but can now reside in our own personal smart phones, trends in 3D printing are quickly making it possible for the general public to design for themselves. With kids being more creative than adults, I think it will only be natural to see more patent applications from youngsters and patent grants will follow. Passing the FE Exam this year will help me be part of this massive trend. Wish me luck!

Lessons Learned after Teaching almost 200 Kids 3D Modeling for 3D Printing

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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.

There’s always another way

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!

The Wonderful Connection between Cooking and 3D Printing

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.

How to implement/promote collaborative learning in the 3D printing classroom

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In those careless childhood years, when play is a vital part of development, many an enchanting scenario is dreamt up in the minds of our young ones. What is it that so many children dream of? Even from a young age they start to develop their own distinct personalities and create their own worlds inside their vivid imaginations. Regardless of what the product of those imaginations may be, given the capability to make those imagined creations come to life, what child would not jump at the chance to design their own toy or dreamt up character?

Posable figurine designed by Shekou American International School Students

Simple to use Tinkercad

As many of you may have found from reading the various blogs on the 3D Roundhouse website, never has there been another time in history where it’s become so easy for anyone, young or old, to make their ideas a reality, thanks to the magic of 3D printing and simple software like Tinkercad.

Some of those who have been dabbling in 3D printing for a while may be familiar with Modio (http://modio3d.com/), which was later rebranded to Tinkerplay when Autodesk acquired it. Modio was a fun iPad app developed by an independent team, which allowed the user to create an action figure out of a selection of snap fit parts. Sadly this app was canned shortly after Autodesk acquired it, along with a bunch of other promising apps Modio had developed.

Despite this unfortunate series of events, Autodesk at least had the wisdom to include some of those connector parts in Autodesk’s aforementioned 3D design platform Tinkercad.

Tinkercad Connectors

Many of our readers are likely to be aware of Tinkercad through the many tutorials we have on our website, but perhaps you were unaware of these useful Connectors. Let’s take a look at how to get started with these connectors and some useful tips I’ve gained from some projects I did with my 6th and 7th grade students.

On opening a new design session in Tinkercad, we can click on the shapes menu on the right and navigate to Connectors. There are also some pre-designed characters, which utilize the snap connectors, namely a dinosaur and a skeleton. These can be found in the printable kits section. Once selected, they can be printed out and assembled. Students could even mismatch the parts to create some interesting creations.

The key thing to keep in mind when having your students design with connectors is to make sure they lock the components. No matter how many times you tell your students, “Don’t scale the connectors or they won’t snap together” they will more than likely do so, even if not doing so consciously.

Once locked, the components cannot be moved, rotated or grouped. Therefore a good practice would be for the teacher to design a template Tinkercad project with all of the right connectors in the correct positions for the students to then add their own parts to. If any minor tweaks are required you can always unlock the components, keep an eye on the student while they make the changes and then re-lock them when finished.

More complex parts like the torso are best assigned to the more capable students

In our class, we assigned each student a part of the body to work on. I explained to the students that they needed to communicate well in order for this project to work. Unfortunately, one or two students weren’t listening and used only socket connectors on both of their designs. The result, all but two of the parts could fit together to make up the stick man’s upper body. I allowed the students to build the model themselves so they would discover the issue. I believe learning from mistakes is a big part of the students’ learning process and so allowing for failure and building a discussion around it shouldn’t be shied away from.

However I pre-printed some correct parts also so they wouldn’t be so disheartened.

We hope this blog post has inspired you. Have you tried anything similar? Do you plan to try this kind of activity in your classroom? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

The First Beer that will Make You Smarter

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Hi guys!

Would you like your child to become a designer? More specifically a product designer? OK, there are plenty of other activities that you will think about way before that one. But keep in mind that these guys can make your daily life a dream or a hell depending on the way they create and influence the objects and tools we use. Continue reading