Middle School art teacher Pete Thobaben had big dreams and plans for his seventh grade class going into the spring. He was looking forward to getting his students to work on designing and creating 3D action figures using the Middle School Maker Space, located in the science wing of the division. When AFS had to close its doors due to Covid-19, Pete decided he wanted to keep the project alive and brought the Maker Space back to life in his home!
Given the need to adjust the lesson for AFS Everywhere, Pete began by introducing students to TinkerCAD.com and Thingiverse.com. TinkerCAD is a web-based computer aided design (CAD) program for education and Thingiverse is library of free 3D designs for 3D printing and laser cutting. The students had to find two objects on Thingiverse to inspire their action figures and then drew a design that incorporated those two objects and five places where the physical figure would move. Pete worked with each student to refine their design and then the students began to build their action figure in TinkerCAD using ball and socket joints or “connectors.” Once final, Pete printed the colorful figures using the school’s 3D printers (see time lapse video above).
Not only is the use of 3D printing technology fun and engaging, it connects arts and STEAM education—building math, science and technical skill into the lesson. This type of work also encourages students to be inventors and to problem-solve and create solutions. Pete discussed how he’s come to incorporate 3D design into his classes, saying “3D design and printing was completely out the question for the middle school age group until fairly recently. While I deeply value all of the traditional art forms and mediums and they will remain a large part of what I do, kids won’t create art in the same way previous generations did—and why should they? These applications, websites and machines couldn’t be better suited for the distance learning environment we find ourselves in.”