• Innovation Grant: 3D Makerspace at Mountain Brook Elementary

    Shannon Millhouse, Jennifer Jinnette, Bill Andrews


    In 2015, the team at Mountain Brook Elementary wrote a grant to develop a Makerspace with a focus on 3D design and printing. The team experimented with Cube and Makerbot printers and ultimately chose Makerbot printers for students’ projects.

    Jennifer Jinnette completed a project with her kindergarten class at Mountain Brook Elementary. Her students made composite sculptures. She scanned and printed the sculptures in the Makerspace. Her students learned about the scanning and printing process, and they were able to compare their composite sculptures with the printed sculptures. Jennifer continued this project at Brookwood Forest.

    Bill Andrews scheduled time for his students to do some of the lessons in Tinkercad, the CAD program developed for children. Students then had the choice of designing artifacts for their World Project. Fifth-grade students also worked with a program that converted two-dimensional drawings to three-dimensional objects. Some students printed their designs.

    Shannon Millhouse’s sixth-grade students completed a series of Tinkercad lessons on 3D design. Once the lessons and corresponding assessment were complete, they used a graphic organizer to plan and print an innovative design as well as reflect on the outcome. Student designs included locker organizers, desk organizers, toys, name tags, containers, and models. Shannon Millhouse also developed a design project for fourth grade and sixth grade students. The older and younger students worked together to design models of tree houses and play houses. Students applied many math concepts and skills including estimation, multiplication, division, measurement, perimeter, area, ratio, scale, and proportion. The fourth and sixth grade students loved working together and came up with some great tree house and play house designs.

    Bill and Shannon continued their activities the second year of the grant at Mountain Brook Elementary. However, Shannon only did the design project with sixth grade. She was not able to schedule the fourth-sixth project. The timing of the sixth-grade musical changed, and fourth and sixth could not schedule classes together.

    Bill, Jennifer, and Shannon taught a session on 3D design and printing at the 2016 Learning Conference. Shannon taught a session at the 2017 Learning Conference with Amy Anderson. Shannon and Amy shared design and printing ideas and resources they were using at their schools.

    The 3D Makerspace activities are scalable. However, it has been challenging to get teachers to take on learning the technology and doing projects with their classes. During the 2017-2018 school year in her capacity as math coach, Shannon will be working with Virginia Moore at Brookwood Forest and Alex McCain at Mountain Brook Elementary to continue 3D design and printing for sixth-grade students. She will also be leading a cohort at MBE for teachers in other grades interested in developing 3D design projects.

    Practical considerations are keeping up the equipment. The first year, there was a lot of trouble printing items due to faulty extruders. The teachers could not have succeeded without Walter, Thea, and Donna helping us with technology issues. The second year, Makerbot sent us better, working extruders, and printing was more manageable and efficient. However, even with good extruders, prints can take many hours to print. The logistics of printing items can be an issue. All of the teachers had to run prints at night or over the weekend in order to get everything printed. It is a significant time commitment when doing a project with students—to monitor and complete all the printing.

    Students loved going to the Makerspace. They were very excited to create, design, and print objects. Working with the CAD program—manipulating, scaling, and aligning the objects in a virtual format--is a great experience for students. The design and revision process fosters critical thinking, problem solving, and perseverance. Many projects can be connected to math and science standards. We continue to work on getting more teachers to take on and incorporate 3D design and printing into a math or science unit so more students can have these experiences.