If it’s true that once you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door, then Whitman and Hanson students taking part in the summer 3-D Printer Camp at WHRSD should perhaps start preparing to greet their global partners.
Any successful product starts with a solid design.
“There’s so many things we can do with this,” W-H Business and Technology Education teacher Julie Giglia said July 10 on the first day of the second camp session. “Why are we starting with a smaller project? Before we can print anything, we’ve got to know how to design and baby steps lead to bigger steps and practice makes potential.”
The three four-day camps taught by Giglia — and assisted this summer by 2017 graduate Conor Keane of Hanson — began June 26 and conclude with a session from July 31 to Aug. 4.
Keane will attend the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester this fall, where he will study architecture. In between helping Giglia answer campers’ questions, Keane also did some work on a design for the dream house he plans to build one day.
“Practice makes potential,” is Giglia’s, teaching mantra. “Nothing’s perfect, unless your name is Perfect.”
The camp was first offered last year following the school’s being awarded a $1,600 Innovation Station grant from representatives of Otter Products on behalf of its Otter Cares Foundation in September 2015. The grant made the school’s 3-D printer purchase possible and that technology upgrade led to the idea for the camp.
“I think a lot of people are excited with new technology,” Giglia said July 10. “It’s an opportunity for kids to design and make things from scratch — from inception all the way to a prototype.”
Like any summer camp, the 3-D Printer Camp begins with an ice-breaking session so the half-dozen or so participants can get to know each other. Then they watched a video on how the computer-aided drafting software works before starting off with a practice session on drafting dog house with a design by Google SketchUp via 3DVinci.net.
The week culminates on a Thursday afternoon with an open house for the campers’ families from 2 to 3 p.m.
“Sometimes videos put us all to sleep,” Giglia said, interrupting the program to start some practical work on a simple doghouse design to familiarize the students with the software. “We’re starting easy because we build on our knowledge.We can’t just go out and print before we learn how to design. … We learn best when we see things.”
“Before you can be independent, you’ve got to learn to be non-independent,” Keane added.
This writer will admit that the campers, ages 10 to 15, left me in the dust as they mastered the basics before adding extras, such as windows, colors, roofing materials and exterior fencing, while I was struggling with the initial dimensions.
Campers learned the need to follow three axis points to arrive at a three-dimensional drawing. As Giglia offered instructions at the white board, Keane offered individual help where needed.
“This is ‘camping is fun’” Giglia said. “Some people learn at different levels. Don’t compare yourself to Conor, he’s much more advanced.”
One or two campers had made the mistake of recording their doghouse dimensions as inches instead of feet, but their errors paled in relation to their creativity. They also learned about the software’s version of the Cloud storage system — called the Warehouse —as well as how to file their work in folders, the value of the undo key and of saving their work frequently lest computer crashes cost them a lot of work. Work in the Warehouse may be downloaded for incorporation in new projects, including landscape features.
Keane also offered a couple shortcuts to ensure straight lines and angles, too.
By the end of the camp, participants would be able to create items such as rings and key chains from biodegradable plastic filament specifically manufactured for use in 3-D printers, and from which student designs can be reproduced in plastic models. The filament, which can be made from recycled plastic bottle caps, is fed into the printer in order to create prototypes.
“Anything you can use to recycle is a positive thing” she said. “I think kids come away pretty happy.”
The campers can also use virtual reality visors for fun as well as design challenges at the camp sessions.
Giglia, who has taught CAD for seven years at WHRHS, said the camp also fosters an interest in that subject.