Year 6 ‘3D’ Engineering Challenge reflection

Today’s lesson was the culmination of a big build up. Earlier this term I was teaching the year 6 classes about 3D printing technology and how it is being used in the real world in built environments, the main focus of their current science unit of work. I had the idea of the students building a construction out of 3D printed parts, thus creating a built environment that relates to this new technology. The example of La Sagrada Familia certainly influenced my thinking with this project as 3D printing is being used to help complete this building. Buildings by Frank Gehry also inspired me, particularly the new Sydney UTS building.

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
Dr Chau Chak Wing, UTS, Sydney
Dr Chau Chak Wing, UTS, Sydney

The process of planning and delivering this project worked like this

  1. Teach students about 3D printing
  2. Relate 3D printing to real world examples to link to built environments science unit
  3. Introduce SketchUp software
  4. Students design their own 3D model to be printed
  5. Convert SketchUp models to STL files and fix them
  6. Take classes to see models being printed
  7. Print the rest of the models
  8. Organise combined lesson with all year 6 classes
  9. Collect materials and resources needed for lesson
  10. Deliver lesson and students build their constructions
  11. Students present constructions and feedback
3D printing bridges
3D printing bridges

Positives from this experience:

  • Project linked to built environments perfectly
  • Students not familiar with 3D printing, great to introduce new technology with a real purpose
  • Students learnt how to create 3D objects using CAD software
  • Students saw 3D objects being printed, new experience for them
  • Students love 3D printed objects
  • Students really engaged and were excited to build their constructions
  • Introduced students to 4D printed technology, thinking how it can be utilised in building houses
3D building
3D building
3D building
3D building

Ways this project can be improved next time:

  • Start project earlier in term, or at least design the 3D models at the end of term 2 to allow me more time to print the sticks
  • Students to spend more time designing their constructions before making them and thinking more about how the 3D printed material is to be utilised. Perhaps they can design something other than a stick type object, something that is absolutely needed to complete their construction
  • Students need to think more about the parts will connect to make the designs solid
  • Ensure all designs have a real world purpose, such as equipment for the playground or type of bridge (incorporates students knowledge of bridge design)
  • For the building lesson, do classes individually rather than all at once
  • Provide students with packs of materials, such as paddle sticks, Blu-Tack, split pins, tape, etc, provide little packs and tell them that is all they have to work with, prevents a free for all
  • Students should build directly from their designs
  • Allow more time for students to present their constructions to the rest of the class

Overall, this was a great project with many plus points. Students were really engaged from the very first lesson about built environments and technology. The project introduced new and relevant technologies that the girls were really interested in. Executing the final lesson can certainly be improved next time and more time is needed!

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