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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.
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:
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Elizabeth and her friend Sophia model a simple bookmark featuring Alan Walker as heard in Roblox!
Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog (in French 🙂 ) with my son about the use of recycled material to 3D print on the planet Mars. The idea was to turn into powder anything we didn’t need anymore once arrived on Mars. It could be plastic parts, aluminum or other metal parts. I even mentioned that we could melt the sand we can found on the red planet to build shelters or buildings. Scientists are already working on all these ideas.
Researchers in the Canadian University of Calgary have found a new source of material to use in a 3D printer. It could even be useful during long space travel. They will recycle the “result” of your short stay on the toilets. That’s right, thanks to a special process and a hard working special enzyme, they will create a solid material that will work very well in a SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) 3D printer. If dogs are allowed for these kind of trips, we will get even more material 🙂 .
Going back to the use of sand, it reminds me of the 2010 adventure of Markus Kayser, an industrial designer and pure genius. He designed a 3D printer able to 3D print by melting sand. He did his experiment in the Egyptian desert. Solar cells were there just to deliver the energy for motors, the sun tracking system and the electronics.
The melting energy was provided ONLY by the sun through a Fresnel lens. The concentrated sunlight, thanks to this Fresnel lens (like the lenses at the top of lighthouses), was enough to melt the desert sand in order to print objects like this bowl.
As you can see, the kind of material you could use in your 3D printer is sometimes surprising. Thanks to the imagination and genius of some people, new possibilities are created all the time. These guys don’t limit themselves to the usual.
I encourage you to apply for yourself and your kids, my today’s take-away advice: Always look beyond your habits to break your limits.
Have a great day!
If you are a parent who enjoys cooking with your children, we are totally convinced you will also enjoy 3D printing with them as well. After playing around with 3D modeling software for the last four years, and more recently posting videos on social media with my daughter about 3D printing with kids, I can say without a doubt that the steps to cooking any dish follow the same process as creating a 3D print. You can think of both having “recipes.” Given this, I believe 3D printing can and will be a new type of family activity!
If you are still unconvinced, check this out.
1. Cooking ingredients as 3D modeling tools. Every dish you cook needs ingredients; every 3D model needs tools. You can’t make an omelet without eggs and you can’t make a 3D print without tools that can create or shape the model. In our “recipe” to make a simple table in Tinkercad, for example, you can examine the list of tools needed next to the table.
2. Cooking method as design steps. As any cookbook with show you, after you identify the ingredients, you need to follow the recipe steps in order to create your dish. Here are the steps to our Table.
There is a certain step-by-step order that you should follow to reach the final goal. When frying an egg, for example, you should add oil before adding the egg, not after. For our Tinkercad Table, you want to create the legs first because you need to see the squares in the Workplace to make sure all the legs line up, before creating the tabletop. Both cooking and 3D modeling should run in a quick and logical order. Check out this video, which shows you how we created the Tinkercad Table.
3. Your stovetop/oven as the 3D printer. Many parents and students I come across who are new to 3D printing expect 3D printers to produce a model as fast as a 2D paper printer. One day, the technology will get there. But for now, in order for a 3D printer to create a relatively thin 15 cubic centimeters (6 cubic inches) design, it would take almost an hour, which is about the time it takes to bake a cake. So both in cooking and 3D printing, you need some patience.
4. You can personalize! Ultimately, recipes are general guidelines and everyone can have their own version of a dish. Just think of many types of burgers or dumplings that are out there! So you can have a version of your own table, or any 3D model. The 3D modeling software, many of which are free, gives you that total freedom. For me, I love personalizing designs with my daughter because I can connect with her at logical and emotional levels as I have explained in a past blog. We personalize every model that we work on to our own tastes and preferences, like this video shows.
So, if you like cooking, give 3D printing a try! Your children will thank you for it!
We’re going to show you how to use Fusion 360 to make 3D prints so that a 10-year old can do it!
3D printing technology makes progress every day. It reaches more and more areas in our lives. In the years to come, it will be a common thing to get something through a 3D printing service. Today I would like to spark a new idea in your mind and the mind of your children.
Imagine for a minute your kids have grown up a little bit. You are about to build a new house in the countryside, on the seaside or in the mountain (or anywhere else you would like to have your new house). You are having a meeting with your architect to decide how to design your house. He tells you all the requirements for energy efficiency, comfort and safety. Suddenly, he looks at your child and asks him:
“Do you know how to create 3D model for 3D printing?”
You are surprised. The architect goes on:
“As you probably know, building technology has improved greatly these last years. I was wondering if your child could design his own living area, so we can 3D print his model for him. You too could model some parts of your house to make it unique.”
Now, dear parents, you have two possible situations:
Situation 1: Your child and/or yourself have never created anything in 3D. Needless to say, something specifically for 3D printing.
Situation 2: Your child and you have already practiced several times 3D modelling for 3D printing. You had lots of fun and have already several Family Made 3D printed objects at home.
In which situation would you like to be? 1 or 2? I would personally prefer the second situation.
Maybe you are telling yourself:
“Patrick is a nice guy, but it will be long before we can do this kind of thing, like modeling all or parts of our living area.”
Really? Think about it. Building constraints have considerably changed. New concrete allows funny shapes as strong and durable as reinforced concrete without iron rods. 3D printing technologies specifically for the building industry are popping all around the world. They progress quickly. Sooner than you think, you will be able to 3D print the house of your dream.
Begin as soon as possible to think about your new house in the shape of a concert grand piano or the shape of a delicious mango.
If you search the first question on-line, you will see hundreds of sites concluding with a resounding, “Yes!” There will also be countless sites telling you how to encourage creativity in your children. (Here, one answer seems to be less schooling!) My questions then become: Why aren’t we taking more advantage of this creativity? Why aren’t there more child inventors? If a key characteristic in certain creative industries, like product design and IT, is to maintain a child-like imagination, then why can’t we just ask actual children?
Before you hit back with child labor laws, etc., here’s a story showing “10 Great Inventions Dreamt Up by Children.” Here’s another story with the title, “Crazy Kids’ Inventions Turned Into Real Products” with the video version here.
Out of all the research explaining WHY children are more creative than adults, the one I found the most compelling was by Alison Gopnik, psychology professor at Berkeley in this TED talk. She refers to the work of evolutionary biologists. Humans have an exceptionally long childhood to resolve the “intrinsic tension” between the need to finding the simplest, quickest solutions (adults) versus the need to explore to find alternative solutions (kids). (Any parent trying to get socks on their children will know what Gopnik means.) In short, evolution has designed humans to give them a chance to explore as children before maturing into efficient, problem solving machines as adults.
But getting back to my earlier questions, why aren’t we working more with children in the creative industries? (Wikipedia notes these nine but there are more.) In my view, one answer is likely the cost of innovation. R&D budgets can be a real drag on profitability for companies. They fund research staff as well the proto-typing. But I think you know what I will say next: 3D printing technology is lowering proto-typing costs. Now, anyone, including children, can also explore new design ideas.
Parents! It’s time to bond with our kids to see where their creativity can take us in the creative industries! Your child might be on a list of inventors in the near future.
More to come in upcoming blogs.