Many teachers have told me, “Oh, we don’t teach tech, so there’s no reason to talk about 3D printing.”

If you think that, you’re wrong.

One of our biggest challenges is getting kids to get engaged with our subject matter. 3D printing encourages a boatload of desirable qualities: critical thinking, problem solving, & a bunch of algebraic & geometrical stuff that I can’t really articulate at the moment because I’ve been STAAR testing for 4 days. But it teaches the MATHS.

Yes, Ms. Zientek, but we don’t TEACH the MATHS.

I know, I know. But this is where you get all cross-curricular and look like a teacher superhero.

Yes, Ms. Zientek, but we don’t have a 3D printer.

That doesn’t mean you kids can’t get into the 3D plane, though. It encourages the kids to get creative, innovative & it feels a little artsy. And that’s where Tinkercad comes in. Oh my gosh, I love Tinkercad. First of all, it’s owned by Autodesk, which is the industry-standard designer of AutoCAD, the world’s most popular engineering design program. It also has a pretty steep learning curve, so Autodesk has created a couple of what I like to refer to as “stepper” programs. Tinkercad is the first step.

Tinkercad is perfect for all ages. My daughter used it at 8, my students use it at 13, and my mother even tried it at 65. It’s bright, colorful, and easy to use, and best of all, it comes with a fully functioning tutorial, so you don’t have to figure it out. (I’d still recommend it, so you can answer questions.) There’s even a fully developed curriculum you can sign up for (for FREE) called Project Ignite. If you’re STEM or CTE, you need to check it out. Not only can kids explore the 3D world, but there’s also a great unit on circuits.

I also love Tinkercad because it’s part of their 123D series of free apps, so it’s great for iPads as well. Once you’re signed in, it takes you straight to the tutorial that not only shows you how to create shapes, but also how to navigate around the plane. This part is a little tricky for newcomers, but once you figure it out, it’s really easy to start building.

Loki Head _ Tinkercad

Why, yes, this IS Loki’s helmet!

Once a student has created an object, it’s easy to download a 3D printable model in a variety of popular file formats, or you can take it into a more sophisticated 3D program like Blender to add further detail. As students progress towards skill mastery, they can work into the professional programs with their existing models. Autodesk has streamlined the 3D creation process from education to industry; get them hooked at a young age, and they’ll be ready to design in the real world in no time.

The other amazing thing about this company is that they offer their EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE software for FREE to students and educators. The first time I heard that, I did a double-take. Why would they do that? The world is experiencing a huge shortage of computer science and engineering talent, and soon, there won’t be enough people to fill the jobs that carry our infrastructure. And traditionally, many students shy away from engineering because it sounds scary. Tinkercad makes it easy, and more importantly, FUN.

So yeah, that’s why you should let them build stuff in Tinkercad. Because technically, you’d be saving the world.

You go, Teacher Superhero.



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