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Robidoux Middle School Adds 3-D Printer For Engineering and Art Classes

Thanks to a grant, this printer is now in a classroom for students to see their three dimensional designs come to life.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Students in Todd Brockett's class learn the basics of digital design.

Brockett teaches the Project Lead the Way class.

"We teach pre-engineering concepts to middle schoolers," he explains.  "We teach design, modeling, robotics, applied physics and chemistry."

And on the engineering side, his students learn how to design products and components that companies would want to buy and use.

His students use computer software to design these things on a virtual interface.

"For years we've made designs with students," Brockett said.  "We can make these designs and see them in a digital world; you can actually manipulate the object; you can move it and test it.  But you can't actually hold it with your hands."

And thanks to a $2,000 Appleseed Grant from the St. Joseph School District Foundation, Robidoux Middle School just got a big addition: a robot.

It's not any ordinary robot; it's a 3-D printer.

The printer takes a three dimensional image from the computer, and literally prints it out using filament fed to it through a spool.

"When they actually take that object out of the computer format and develop that product and print it, it's amazing," Brockett said.

Art teacher Adam Roske also uses computer graphics in his art class.

He says they use traditional media like clay and paint as well, but the computer element is less expensive and less messy.

"A lot of these concepts are new to the students, whether it's working with clay or working online, it's new.  A lot of times when you try something new it doesn't work out that well.  We don't have unlimited supplies where they can try over and over and over again because our materials run out.  Digitally, they can try as many times as they want.  Once they get it nailed down and perfect, then we can make the 3-D print."

Roske says he looks at what art projects are coming along the best; those are the ones that get printed.

And students are very excited to actually see their creations come to life.

"They want to show everyone as soon as they get it.  'Can I show it to my friend?  My teacher?  Can I go show this off?'  Yeah they love it," Roske said.  "To see such enthusiasm is fantastic.  It's our goal, to get kids excited about something and they're definitely excited about this."

Brockett says he hopes his students can use the 3-D printer on team projects.

Each team will design one part, and the whole class will assemble those parts into a functioning machine.
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