Return to Headlines

3D Printers Support Student Learning

Fifth grader Amya Johnson looks at the 3D printer as it creates a modelSherman ISD elementary students are learning the basics of 3D design and engineering in their computer lab classes, thanks to new 3D printers.

“These printers touch on all of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math),” said Rebecca Nash, Fairview Elementary digital learning specialist. “Students bounce design ideas off their science teacher, and they pick up a bit of programming from Tinkercad.”

Tinkercad is a free online 3D modeling program that can create models for 3D printers. Nash teaches her older students how to use it and how to best fit their ideas within printer parameters. Fairview fifth grader Amya Johnson showed off a drum she made, her name embossed across the side.

“It was fun learning how to use it during class or even during free time,” Johnson said. “After I started putting my name on the drum, the other kids started putting their names on their things and doing more of what they wanted.”

Not every model is printed perfectly, however. Physics still applies, and some trial and error is involved, as Fairview fifth grader Cannon Griffin found out with his hero model.

“In a piece of it, there were too many small parts, and you had to add these supports for them,” Griffin said. “It was a lot to make.”

Fairview Elementary students hold up their printed 3D models.Fairview, along with the other elementary schools, middle schools, and Sherman High School, received grants totaling about $5,000 from the Sherman Education Foundation to purchase 3D printers. Nash said the technology is usually out of reach at the elementary level.

“Most of my students have never seen a 3D printer,” she added. “They were very excited to learn how to use the printer, and when you break Tinkercad down, they’re experts in it within an hour or so.”

Tinkercad knowledge that students gain is also applicable at the middle school level, where they dive deeper into the program. Not only that, Tinkercad skills can transfer to higher levels.

“Introducing Tinkercad to them now could lead to them using AutoCAD, which is the professional version,” Nash said. “AutoCAD is used in high school and college, and it could even lead to a career.”