Thursday, August 23, 2012

RepRap and High School integration

Jeeze, I've really fallen behind with my blogging as my life has transitioned away from the RepRap scene towards the future of University life and a new start on the west coast of Canada in Squamish BC.

When I originally built my RepRap I really wanted to include my school, the Toronto Waldorf School in the project so that both the community and myself could benefit from the future of 3D printing. I originally built my RepRap for a senior project in my high school, I worked with the science department to find a way to integrate the project into the actual fabric of the school. Our solution was that the school would pay for the printer through the science department budget and in return I donated the printer to the school when I was done building and playing with it. I was given the opportunity to present and demonstrate the printer to both the middle school (grades 5-8) and the high school. The students were enthralled with the potential of 3D printing, I ended up answering questions non stop for over an hour until the teachers finally had to pull the students away so they could go back to their regular classes.

Now that the printer is safely stowed away in one of the demonstration classrooms in my old school I face the challenge of creating a clear guide that students can follow to be able to confidently operate a Prusa Mendel and take advantage of 3D printing... This task has been much harder than it seems, as anyone who has tried to get started in reprap will know. For example, when your printer stops homing on the x axis, or does not extrude evenly, you dive into the sketchy search engine on the reprap forum and look for some kind of answer, more often than not you end up finding a post that directs you to some obscure blog that has a nice tutorial on trouble shooting your specific problem. So how do I go about compiling some form of guide that will be able to answer the majority of questions and problems a highschool student might face?

Another perspective on this challenge is getting more than just the technically inclined interested in printingt Thingiverse has something to offer to everyone, whether that be a bracket for a mountain biker or a lens hood for a photographer. How do I attract those students that would never think of themselves as the technical type to 3D printing? In more succinct words: How do I bridge the gap from the technically inclined to the mainstream?

My answer to this two fold challenge is still being developed. I plan on visiting the school sometime next school year to give a workshop to get students comfortable using it, to complement the workshop, I intend to put together some form of guide or list of resources that students can refer to in my absence.

I would love to hear feedback from the community about how I should go about integrating my RepRap into my school community in a way that is inclusive of the whole student body, and furthermore, how to go about structuring a workshop and creating a guide that would give any student the confidence necessary to begin 3D printing.