‘Tomorrow’s innovators’ hone skills today

May 10, 2019

3D printing creates exciting activities in the classroom and allows teachers to bring lessons to life in a way students can see.

But the only real way to understand how 3D printing technology works is to build one. That’s exactly what Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center Fab Lab students are doing.

“We are creating tomorrow’s innovators. The district takes pride in featuring new and advanced programs,” Fab Lab teacher Adam Macholz said.

“The class brings in aspects everyone enjoys, whether its coding or woodworking,” student Ethan Gray said.

Student Tabitha Callahan added, “It’s as if you were at a construction site. We are building things.”

In Fab Lab, eighth-graders learn 3D design, 3D printing, computer numerical control, woodworking, circuitry and electronics, coding and other STEM related topics.

To further their knowledge, students are building 3D printers from scratch. Students used a CNC machine to route the printer’s wooden frames, and the classroom’s 3D printers to make the computer corner pieces, motor parts, control boards and other components.

Students start the school year with 3D design and printing and making a basic key chain before they move to more advanced projects such as a 3D bobble head. Students learn about circuitry using Arduino, an electronic prototyping platform enabling users to create interactive electronic objects. Using the CNC machine, students learn woodworking, design their own nameplates and are currently building chairs.

As a culminating activity, students use the skills they learned to build the 3D printers. Last year, Fab Lab students built the CNC machine used by students this school year. Now, students are building 3D printers for students to use next school year.

“We learned about woodworking and 3D printing, now we are putting both of those together and using it in a different way,” Macholz said.

“It’s different than any other class. You don’t sit around here. It’s hands on and a lot of fun,” student Bryan Aldridge said.

Loren Carson likes the class because, “I like the variety of what we learn. We are learning useful skills.”

“This class is so important to expose students to jobs they can have when they finish high school or college. Whether they are interested in being an engineer or mechanic, the class gives students a basic understanding of how things work,” Macholz said. “It gives them 21st-century skills that are relevant.”

Next school year, Fab Lab will expand to three classes of seventh-graders and three classes of eighth-graders.