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An Interview with Carrie Rise, Brownell-Talbot School

Social media truly is an incredible technology. It has matured and grown over the years to where high-levels of information and news are disseminated with ease to tens of thousands, even millions, every second of every day. Social media is also great for making connections from what may have begun as a casual observance. This was the case with the subject of our most recent interview, Ms. Carrie Rise of the Brownell-Talbott School in Omaha, NE. We discovered her work with 3D printing and found out there was a lot more to the story. She and other colleagues use the technology in very innovative ways to foster STEM education at their school. Ms. Rise, as you will see below, has found ways to use 3D printing with her mathematics courses which allow students to apply concepts to real life modeling. The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.

1) When and how did you make the decision to get involved with 3D printing?
In the fall of 2012 we took a group of 10th graders to Creighton University in Omaha and one of the groups got to visit the Physics department. They had a 3D printer and were printing some bridges that students had designed. It was the first time our students and I had seen a 3D printer in action. I was hooked! Later that year, at a robotics tournament, we saw that a team had 3D printed a small version of their robot. Now the whole robotics team was hooked as well.

After that robotics season, we had a small amount of money left in our budget so we took the plunge and ordered a Printrbot kit. It came in the mail and a few members of our team worked together to put the kit together. I supervised the whole thing and helped to problem solve. Once together, we just started printing anything and everything! So for the rest of the year and all that summer we printed little things that we downloaded from Thingiverse and other repositories. The next school year, I got a grant from our school to purchase a Makerbot 2X and that’s when things really got ramped up. This summer we have added a FlashForge 3D printer and expect to have all three printers working on projects or used at teaching tools.

2) Was there at anything from your background in teaching and your education that helped you get started?
I teach math, so there is a definite connection with technology, but I also love to tinker. I have a minor in Computer Science and have a fair amount of experience with web based applications. I would say the thing that drives me the most is curiosity. I heard more and more about this “printing”, but really didn’t get it until we had our own 3D printer.

3) What courses do you currently teach and in which do you use 3D printing?
I teach Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and AB an BC Calculus. Personally, I have used OpenScad in both AP Calculus classes (after the AP exam) to model and create objects using 2D and 3D shapes and commands to create some pretty cool objects. One student created a camera using OpenScad. Other students created art pieces using the code.

4) Can you provide some examples of the types of 3D printing projects you and your students have worked on thus far?

  • Our American History teacher had students create replicas of skyscrapers from around the world during a unit on the industrial revolution.
  • Our seventh grade teacher explored 2D and 3D coordinate points and had students create personalized keychains, with an emphasis in looking at the code and all the 3D points.
  • Our 6th grade math teacher had students create a house floor plan with accurate scale and then extruded the floor plan vertically and then printed the houses.
  • Our robotics team routinely helps our theatre department by building things and printing props. We printed a full size skull used in Hamlet. We printed Shrek ears (using Ninja flex filament). We are in negotiations to help with this year’s play as well.
  • Last year, Mr. Wade Lanum taught a 3D design class for middle schoolers.

Oh! I am also printing some things for our AP Biology class? If I can ever get to it.

5) What types/makes/models of printers do you and your students have access to?
Printrbot LC, Makerbot 2X and FlashForge

6) What has been the reactions of students and their parents with the introduction of 3D printing?
We got the Makerbot 2X the day of our science fair. I literally pulled it out of the box and took it down to the fair and started printing. Kids, parents, teachers and administrators all wanted to see the new toy! I am always trying new things (like the custom bust I printed this summer) and showing teachers and students.

7) How early on in their education at Brownell-Talbot are your students exposed to it?
For sure by 5th grade, but I worked with some students this summer that were going into 2nd and 3rd grade.

8) Have you done any work with the staff at the libraries to help get books about the subject of printing and design?
I have not, but I think that is a really good idea.

9) What object(s) are you most proud of that have been created under your guidance/direction?

I’m pretty proud of the skull that we printed because it was a 15 and a 9 hour print. Leaving the printer to print all night long is still very scary to me, but it printed perfectly the first and only time I tried. There was a small amount of warping, but some glue and a heat gun took care of everything.

The Shrek ears were tricky just because NinjaFlex is very touchy to work with. We had to dial the settings way down in order to get a nice print.

Recently, I printed a wooden box that I am going to stain.

Most things we have printed, we have chosen to do for a specific purpose in terms of learning something new. So when faced with a particular problem we have a wide set of experiences to draw from.

10) What advice would you have for a teacher like yourself who is interested in integrating 3D printing into their school?

Dive in! You have to! Don’t be afraid. Even mistakes teach you something. MakerBot has been a great resource in terms of educational materials and if you buy one of their products (I recommend the 2X), get the Makercare. It gave me more confidence that if I broke something, it would/could be fixed. It is a balancing act as far as what and how much to use it in the classroom, but if several teachers jump on board, the printer will always be busy. Ours is!

11) What can schools and colleges/universities, in your opinion, to better (if anything) to foster STEM efforts related to 3D printing? What do you think are the biggest barriers to a novice getting involved with the field and the technology?
In just three years, our small school has made huge steps in CAD and 3D printing. Kids are constantly on the web and are reading about all of these exciting possibilities that 3D printing brings. 3D printing is the next logical step in the design process. Universities have had CAD classes and even have students design everything from buildings to bridges to art pieces. Now students can do real testing on these designs.