AZ Partners in Science Supplemental - 2012
3D Printing in High School Science and Engineering Classes
William Golden, a chemistry and engineering teacher at Flowing Wells High School in Tucson, successfully completed a two-year Partners in Science award last year. The award allowed him to prepare and analyze -- at the quantum level -- nano-fragments of graphene, a relatively recently discovered allotrope of carbon.
But Golden’s interest in materials science hasn’t stopped there. He received a supplemental grant from RCSA to introduce a 3D printer to his school as a learning tool for future scientists and engineers. The software-driven printer makes useful parts out of plastic.
“We’re looking at bringing in additive manufacturing or 3D printing into the classroom and trying to incorporate that into problem-solving strategies,” Golden said.
As the advisor for the after-school Math Science and Engineering Achievement Club, Golden said his goal is to encourage students to problem-solve by designing and building items completely on their own, without teacher expertise.
“We are piggybacking off an engineering design process where ideas and needs are identified. We want the students to start coming up with designs, maybe by hand initially, and then put them into SolidWorks or AutoDesk CAD programs. Then print it, assess the design, see if it works, and then make improvements.”
At the very least maybe they’ll be able to repair some of the old equipment now gathering dust at Flowing Wells High, he said.
One project definitely on the agenda is the construction of parts for a basic spectroscope.
When attached to a personal cellphone, the 3D-printed parts, along with a downloadable app, will allow students to analyze samples in the visible light range, Golden said, adding the software for the 3D parts as well as the app, is free.
When it comes to making and using this device, “the kids can do everything on their own,” he said. “We’re going to use these devices on some of our research trips. And again the kids are doing all this. I’m just making sure they don’t get hurt.”