Within two hours of that box arriving, I had it set up, activated and printing away at a built in frog model that came with the printer.
I found the Dremel printer to be a perfect start-up printer for the newbie to the 3D Printing scene. The pricetag of $1,400 was approachable with help from a grant, and the availability of materials through traditional sources (Best Buy, Target, Home Depot, Amazon) held great appeal for me. The Dremel printer has consistently ranked relatively high against similar priced competitors and was noted in particular for its usefulness in schools by Makezine.com. Although the Dremel uses proprietary filament and software, I found some of the proprietary features to be beneficial due to the fact that it makes it more 'dummy-proof'. In particular, the software provided by Dremel will take and read 3D modeling files (.stl, .obj) and check them to ensure proper positioning, sizing, supports, etc. so you get consistently more successful builds.
Now there is certainly an ABUNDANCE of 3D Model files out on the web for you to print, and I'll admit I became quite absorbed for awhile checking out all of the possibilities, but I forced myself to remember that this is a tool for CREATION and my goal was to integrate it into my curriculum for student use. So I set out to figure out what resources were available for me to create a print items.
The first thing I created was a Grand Island (pork chop shaped) cookie cutter using the Cookie Cutter Customizer. This Thingiverse tools is really pretty straightforward and allows those with a steady hand to draw any shape and the customizer turns it into a 3D Model of a cookie cutter. (cool!)
However enthralling cookie cutter design and development might be, I was a little sketchy on the relevance to my curriculum at hand, so again I set out to find more tools and ideas.
While perusing Kathy Schrock's Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom, I came across Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a 'simple, online 3D modeling and printing tool for the masses' and it's FREE....an important criteria. Tinkercad allowed me to bring the concept of creation to the forefront for my students AND allowed me to integrate STEM skills into my social studies class.
What We Did
To 'teach' the necessary 3D Modeling skills I created a screencast (via Screencast-o-matic) of me explaining the project along with step by step instructions which I pushed out on Google Classroom. When their 3D Models were finished, they simply submitted their file to me on Google Classroom.
Our second project paralleled our unit on Ancient Egypt. For this project I changed the filament to gold (It was easy....like threading a sewing machine) and told the students they were going to design their names in hieroglyphics and place them on a cartouche. I employed the same strategy for this assignment by using a screencast and a step-by-step list of instructions and also had the students submit their completed files through Google Classroom.
When a colleague observed the students in action working on this project, he simply couldn't believe the desire that the students had to do the project. Hands were raised perpetually seeking knowledge and solutions. There was an all around passion to complete the work amidst a cloud of ambiguity. 3D Modeling is TOUGH and yet they forged ahead, puzzling through the challenges that 3D work represented. I was most impressed with the way they demonstrated resilience when the project wasn't quite correct and they had to remodel, fix, rotate, view and review to see the work from multiple perspectives. Ultimately there was this inimitable drive for the end result to be successful...one not seen in traditional instruction. Oh yea, they learned too!! Therefore THAT'S....