3D printers give engineering classes a boost

“Students get an idea, sketch it out, develop it, animate it, print it, and then hold it in their hands,” said Weirich. “Until then, it’s all conceptual, virtual and 2D. Completing the circle is important.”

Students in Weirich’s class print mechanical designs and models of objects such as cars, buildings, and aircraft. Weirich said students are learning important skills that will help them should they choose to pursue design or engineering fields in college.

“Students are going to college and finding it very easy to develop their skills at that level because of the advanced foundation they received here,” he said. “And when students show up at interviews with colorful models to pass around the table–that makes a big impact on whether they’re admitted or hired.”

Students in the Advanced Competitive Science (ACS) Program at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in Minneapolis, founded and run by Tim Jump, originated as a way to teach students about science fields, but morphed to focus on engineering and problem solving.

When freshmen enter Benilde-St. Margaret’s School, they receive a tour introducing them to ACS. It is on that tour that students experience the school’s Dimension BST 3D Printer, which builds 3D models from ABS plastic one layer at a time.

“It’s a tool that has not only helped our students succeed in the classroom, but has also given them a better understanding of design engineering concepts that have translated well as they’ve pursued their engineering careers beyond this school,” Jump said.

In the three-year ACS program, students first learn how to think like engineers and approach problems. They are tasked with building an arm-like structure from Lego building blocks, and testing its structural integrity.

Laura Ascione

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