Tech Valley will
use 3-D printer to add new dimension to education
Students will be able to bring their designs to reality with a few carefully calculated key strokes
Tech Valley High School (TVHS) is adding a new dimension to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education it offers to students — literally.
This summer, the school acquired a new 3-D printer and entered a new era of possibility in taking the ideas students have and bringing them into the real world.
“For me, working with machines gave me a better understanding of what I wanted to do with my life,” said Keely Kocsis, one of the school’s resident 3-D printing experts.
Kocsis, 15, is going to be a junior in the 2015-16 school year, but has spent several days at the school over her summer vacation experimenting with the printer’s capabilities and getting to know it inside and out.
“I think this machine could do a lot for our projects in the future,” she said.
TVHS teachers are already imagining different ways to integrate the 3-D printer into their courses. Chemistry teacher Diana Weldon is considering having her chemistry students design and then print models of molecules. The new teacher for the STEM@CNSE program, Gene Murphy, plans on using the 3-D printer to illustrate the process for nanotechnology production and structures.
“At Tech Valley, we're interested in kids being able to create work products that are as authentic and relevant as possible,” TVHS Principal Jim Niedermeier said. “It is one thing to learn how to use a CAD program by designing a theoretical part; it is quite another thing to be able to instantly print out that part and be able to put it to good use. You can't get more authentic than actually making something useful.”
Foundation Board member David Gibson, the entrepreneur who committed $5,000 to the school for the purchase of the printer and materials, said the importance of the 3-D printer goes deeper than just the products students will make with it.
“Understanding spatial relationships and being able to think in three dimensions is critical to a number of fields,” he said, including many of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields TVHS specializes in. A mechanical engineer, Gibson said the value of 3-D thinking goes beyond just engineering fields, though. “It’s essential for a lot of technology, for art, physics, chemistry and a variety of other fields.”
Gibson said the device also opens other educational possibilities to the school. “It opens the ability for a small manufacturing operation to raise funds and create small business opportunities,” he said, adding that students could actually sell some of the student-made products to raise money for other projects.
In fact, even the selection and purchase of the 3-D printer was a learning experience for a handful of interested students, who established the criteria the school would use to choose a machine, evaluated the marketplace and ultimately selected a 3-D printer that was more cost-effective than those Gibson had been looking at.
“There was a great learning experience involved in the students going through the process,” he said.
"TVHS is proud of the strong relationships it has developed over the years with professionals in the business, education and technology sectors,” Tech Valley Regional Technology Institute Director Jim Church said. "David Gibson has supported the school since its inception; this contribution is yet another example of his commitment to ensuring our students have the resources to learn the skills necessary for the 21st-century workplace.”
The top photo is a shot of the 3-D printer in action. The other photos are products Kocsis produced while getting familiar with the 3-D printer.