It’s been about 5 years since I first brought a 3D printer into my office, and started letting the kids print to it. I’ve learned a lot in that time about what motivates them, and how to get them designing more and thinking about what they’re doing. I was thinking a lot about that during the beginning of the year, and started sketching out a more rigorous program to encourage better design thinking. I rolled the program out at the beginning of the year, and hoped it would take off.
I wanted to gamify the system and make it more exciting. I designed the system after the medieval apprentice system, with novice, apprentice, journeyman, and master levels. Each level has it’s own challenges and privileges. For example, the novice level, requires making a backpack tag to specific size specifications. The apprentice level requires making two specific designs, as well as a very easy online quiz about general 3D printing concepts. The master level requires a portfolio of pieces, as well as one masterpiece. This was a bit of a challenge, because I didn’t (and really still don’t) have a clear picture of what that means. But after consulting with our art teachers and others whose opinions I value, I decided that it had to show a significant amount of work, and be interesting. Basically, I’ll know it when I see it (of course, I’m also getting input from those other teachers, and that helps a lot!).
I created the first draft of this program at cliffvalley3D.club, using Google Sites. It’s not very pretty, but it is fast and flexible. I’ve already changed the structure around significantly in response to what I see the students doing. I am sure to make more changes over the summer (probably a point system, and maybe an online progress tracker), and maybe I’ll move it to a more aesthetically pleasing platform then.
In the meantime, it’s time to see the results! In a typical year, I have printed between 350 and 500 student designs. Since rolling out the new program January 8th, I have printed 602 pieces, with a total of 872 for the year so far. That’s a significant increase in the number of prints! Even better, the quality of the prints has improved significantly. I’ve seen a marked decrease in the number of unprintable designs I’ve been sent, as well as better adherence to the rules for design (size limitations, proper naming, etc.). It’s only been a couple months, but I am ready to officially declare the program a success!