John Small Elementary learns 3-D printing skills

Published 7:48 pm Thursday, March 10, 2016

KATHRYN BRYANT WISE GUYS DUO: Luke Wright and his mother also take a stab at the 3-D model competition, as part of a Wise Guys STEM Night.

WISE GUYS DUO: Luke Wright and his mother also take a stab at the 3-D model competition, as part of a Wise Guys STEM Night.

John Small Elementary School is taking enrichment to another level, thanks to money awarded by the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant.

With the more than $3,000 awarded, John Small was able to purchase two 3-D printers for use in its Wise Guys enrichment classes and the library. The printers have since led to opportunities to experience new technology in the classroom, as well as involve parents through STEM (science, technology, engineering, technology) Nights.

Enrichment teacher Kathryn Bryant said she submitted an application for the grant money back in the fall, and the school found out it would be awarded the money in January. Since then, she has worked to get the printers in place for their debut, which was only a few weeks ago.

Having been exposed to the technology before in previous classes, Bryant said the students love learning more about 3-D printing, and her recognition of that is what sparked the decision to apply for grant money.

She said her enrichment students have already begun using the printer in the classroom, designing a type of jewelry with geometric shapes, then printing out the creations. As for the library printer, Bryant said she is training the other teachers how to use it in their own lessons.

“If a science teacher needed a fossil they didn’t have, they could 3-D print a dinosaur fossil or a skull or something like that,” she said. “We’re still, of course, learning how to use it.”

Bryant has also organized two Wise Guys STEM Nights, one Thursday night and the next on March 17, for students and their parents to get in on the action together.

The family teams must design a 3-D model of a boat that is at least 4 inches long, can float and handle some amount of weight, she said. Once the designs are drawn, she will 3-D print the models, and on April 6, there will be a competition for which boat can withstand the most weight while staying afloat.

“This one seems to be popular,” Bryant said, comparing the 3-D model theme to the STEM Nights held last spring. “To me, STEM really boils down to problem solving, and you’re using a wide variety of skills to do that.”

Bryant said she wants to use the printers purchased in the classroom setting to expand students’ knowledge about cutting edge technology and how it can apply to real life.

“I’ve been teaching my enrichment students about 3-D printing for the past few years,” Bryant said. “I saw my students getting interested in that, and I wanted to give them the experience … with 3-D technology, but I also wanted to give them skills they can build on.”

“I also want to give them skills they can grow with and use as adults in the workforce,” she said.