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An Interview with Heather Calabro, Mid-Pacific Institute

We originally posted about the work of Heather Calabro and her class at the Mid-Pacific Institute last week. Mid-Pacific, or Mid-Pac for short is an Apple distinguished school located in Honolulu, Hawaii that has students from Pre-K up through 12th grade in what their website describes as a college-preparatory community. Ms. Calabro and her 9th grade students were able to tap into the power of 3D printing to bring history to life in their community. The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.

1) What is your academic background and how long have you been teaching?
I have my Master's in Education from Chaminade University. I have been teaching for 9 years.

2) What gave you the idea to incorporate 3D printing into a humanities class? Did you have any previous experience with the technology? Had other teachers also constructed these types of assignments?
I teach a project-based learning Humanities course. I am always looking for creative ways for the students to display work. I have previously had students create a ceramic timeline, but this year we have a handful of 3D printers on campus, and with my students so entertained by technology, I thought we could give it a try! I had no 3D printing experience, so the students and I learned together. Our tech specialist Tony Johansen lent us his expertise. There are other teachers at our school utilizing the 3D printers.

3) How long did the students have to complete the projects from start to finish? How much of your lecture time did you have to give up so they could learn the technology?
I was able to assign Sketch Up tutorial viewing as homework. The students were then given a 45 minute class period to practice. And 2 85 minute periods to create the design and get it checked for errors. Along with the research element of the project and drafting the project spanned a 2 week period of both in class and homework.

4) Did each choose their own topic or did you have a list that they could choose from that you knew could work?
The students developed a list of the 31 most significant WWII events. From that list, each student picked the event they wanted to pursue. Then, each student chose a person they thought to be associated with the event, to write from their point of view.

5) Given the success of the project, is there anything you think could be adapted or changed for next time? Will you continue to integrate this type of multi-faceted approach moving forward?
I absolutely would do this project again. I might use a different program for the students to create their designs. In MPX (the project-based learning program in which I teach) we always do a multi-faceted approach. We pride ourselves on interdisciplinary project work.

6) What would you say were the biggest challenges of integrating this type of assignment into a class such as this?
The biggest challenge is being flexible. I usually like to completely wrap up a project (including exhibition) but 3D printing 31 pieces took quite a while, so I needed to adjust my plans and move forward with our next curriculum unit prior to unveiling the timeline exhibit.

7) Does your school currently have any classes dedicated to either the design or completion of 3D printed objects? Is there any exposure to it in the earlier grades at Mid-Pacific?
Mid-Pacific Institute has design classes in both the Middle School and High School that mainly use the 3D printers. The elementary school also has a 3D printer.

8) What advice, if any, would you give to fellow educators who are interested in doing a project like the one in your class?
Just try! The worst that can happen is that you run into a snag and use it as a teachable moment to help students understand troubleshooting. When you are upfront with your students about trying new technology, they will understand. And it is more fun to learn together, anyways!

9) What do you think schools and universities can do 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?
Funding is often a challenge. I'm fortunate to have access to a tech specialist on campus. Other schools should certainly have such a position to assist teachers with these new technologies that are showing up on campus. If there were prefabricated lesson plans for 3D printing projects, perhaps more educators would be willing to give it a try?