Contact us at +1 857 317 3130 or [email protected] / Sign In

NVBOTS: Inspiring Students through 3D Printing

The Sizer School, formerly the North Central Charter Essential School, is a 7-12 urban public charter school in Massachusetts that serves about 370 students. Approximately 45 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. When NVBOTS agreed to pilot the NVPro 3D printer, there wasn’t a staff member in the building who had any experience with 3D printing or designing for 3D printing.

The NVBOTS philosophy when integrating the NVPro 3D printer was to expose it to as many students and teachers as possible, and to take advantage of how quickly students grasp new technology. NVBOTS deliberately gave students a large amount of freedom and responsibility in learning how to use it and simultaneously tried to teach teachers alongside their students in classes.

Adoption of the NVBOTS 3D printer occurred in the following five phases:


  1. Placement of the Printer, and Training Select Staff and Students
    Three representatives from NVBOTS came to the school to train two teachers who would be given administrative privileges (ultimately referred to as Teacher-Administrators), as well as six students (known as Student Printer-Technicians), on the use of the printer. They were recruited from the classes that met in the room where the printer would be located.The printer was placed in a heavily-used science classroom for 11th and 12th grade classes, which was used every period of the day.At least one Student Printer-Technician was present in each of the classes that met in that room. Because we had a student trained by NVBOTS available during every period, the students answered questions about the printer and kept watch over it. In addition, the ability to remotely monitor the printer with its webcam was a perfect way to give the students responsibility for the printer in a classroom, while still having a Teacher-Administrator keep tabs on it.


  1. Empowering students to learn 3D design independently and earn printing privileges
    Notices went out in all science classes and school bulletins that 3D printing privileges would be given to any student who completed a series of 10 tutorials in Tinkercad (a free online easy to learn CAD program) and then successfully designed and printed a small coffee mug. These students became known as Tinkercad-Certified Students.Students who completed these tasks were allowed to submit any design for printing. We did not restrict the numbers of students who earned this privilege or the number of designs a student could print. Nor did we prohibit students from printing items not designed by themselves (for example, designs found online). Surprisingly, very few students wanted to print others’ designs. After working through the Tinkercad lessons and coffee mug project, students had the skills to make their own items.


  1. Integrating the 3D printer into Middle School Math Classes
    A 7th grade math activity, Volume of a Box, was developed by one of the Teacher-Administrators. This is a three-day, Common Core-based program divided into the following activities:
  • Learning to design on Tinkercad,
  • Designing and printing a rectangular prism, then predicting its volume
  • Measuring the volume of the printed prismThe Teacher-Administrator coordinated with each of the 7th grade math teachers to go into their class for three periods and lead this activity. Two upperclassmen, a Student Printer-Technician and a Tinkercad-Certified Student volunteered to act as aides in the classes.Within a few weeks, most of the 7th graders had designed and printed a small open-topped rectangular prism for measuring volume. This activity was the first time the math teachers had worked with CAD software or a 3D printer. They were seeing it for the first time along with their students. Students who successfully completed this activity were given permission to print other designs without going through the Tinkercad lessons. Eventually a similar activity, with cylinders and other shapes, was brought into the 8th grade math classes.


  1. Introduction of The 3D Printer Club: After-school time for students who required more structure to learn design and printing
    After-school hours were set up on a weekly basis for students to drop in and learn to design and print. Students did not need to pre-register or commit and the sessions were run on a drop-in basis. This became known as The 3D Printer Club. Students in The 3D Printer Club eventually began exploring quite a bit, making heart pendants for Valentine’s Day, replacement parts for broken plastic battery holders, chess pieces, and small vehicles (including a multipart Starship Enterprise). About five months after the printer’s arrival, students who had never used the printer started coming and asking to design items for their classes.


  1. Integration into Engineering Classes
    Engineering class students were also provided time after school to learn Tinkercad and strongly encouraged to use it during class engineering projects. Some students used the 3D printer to make parts for a scaled boat they were building. In addition, twelve students used the printer to produce game pieces for board games they had designed.


What started out as an initial pilot between NVBOTS and Sizer School has taken student learning and engagement to an entirely new level. NVBOTS removed the responsibility of preparation by the classroom teacher and allowed them to learn alongside their students. By enabling both students and their teachers to experience 3D design and printing and incorporate it into their daily lesson plans, NVBOTS and Sizer School have created an environment where students (and teachers) are inspired to learn more, while being able to truly turn their ideas and realities.