Introduction to 3D Printing for middle school students

3D printing has been a locked down industry that up until recently has had an exploding chance to branch into new industries along with education. 3D printing can be used as a tool for cheap prototyping designs. Building more passionate students for the engineering field, When kids can watch an idea made into a physical product within a few hours it inspires them to think more logistically and creatively building solutions through problem solving.

Current state of students

The primary forms of learning are built on three main types Visual, Kinesthetic and Auditory. These students vary in the classroom but the most hindered are commonly visual learners in mathematics. In engineering one of the fundamentals is mathematics, so how do you get kids interested? Creative design, allowing kids to use their imagination with integration of the fundamentals of engineering will show them how a topic they may dread can be entertaining.

Visual Learners
Some students rely upon a visual learning style: “Show me and I’ll understand.”
cited from familyeducation

Starting the class


I began explaining the basics of 3D printing and how modeling for 3D printing is different to other industries. Getting them to think about how they design models.  Prior to the class i printed out 4 Marvin key chain models at different positions to show the failure points and primary areas of bed adhesion to the printing platform.

Showing them how a model can mess up put them under a light blanket of pressure making them think how they should make the models and how to avoid failed prints. Getting them to load up TinkerCAD by AutoDesk (Entry level 3D CAD). Being the main point of this class was to teach them the basics. Once the designs were completed I wanted  to show the printing process in front of them. Connecting the printer lit up their eyes and they jumped right onto the computers to start tinkering with their designs.

Final outcome

Plenty of questions arose from how to angle models to proper positioning but regardless of the bumpy road they accomplished what they came to do.

Here are a few of the models some of the class made during the time they were modeling designs

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The functionality of their designs

Across the designs there were plenty of variety that stood out among them. From nun chucks with a functional printed chain, key chains to a car with wheels that would move. They built them without any help.

3D Scanning

Day two of the class i wanted to shift focus from making models and showing them what can be done with electronics they might have at home. Using the V2 kinect i setup a handheld mount and a stool in the center of the lighted area.

Scanning each student by having them sit in a chair and circling around them with the kinect scanner. Once the scan was done, it was time to demonstrate how the clean up process works in MeshMixer.  Printing out each of the students was not possible when they were there due to the amount of time per 3D scan. Each one took around 3 hours to print with White PLA at 0.22mm layer height

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Once the class was over the students had a basic understanding of the principles of 3D design and printing, Understanding how to change out filament on a printer, understanding infill and layer height.


This being the first time teaching any kind of class was an interesting opportunity. If i were to do this again I would want to extend the length of the class and have more predefined rhetoric to use.


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