Makerspaces and 3D printing are wildly popular in today’s schools. Students are interested in the creativity of design, the freedom of planning, and ultimately, the anticipation of testing. 3D printing in the classroom is the perfect way to have students experiment with these fun STEM skills.

From a full band of printed instruments to chocolate candies created layer by layer, it seems like there could be something for every student, even those who say they aren’t good at math or science. Incorporating 3D printing into lessons certainly makes sense in more typical STEM disciplines, but even traditionally less tech-focused subject areas, like consumer sciences or the arts, are ripe for connections with a maker’s mindset.

But for educators with less 3D printing experience, where to start? Call upon your colleagues for a subject matter wisdom swap.

Today we’re featuring two teacher stories of cross-curricular STEM collaboration for 3D printing success. These EVERFI educators tell about their experiences with sneaker prototyping with the help of their colleagues and the Endeavor – STEM Career Exploration program.

As adults, how often do we get to go back to school and learn an entirely new skill? All it takes is a little prep and knowing when to ask for help. To kickoff the theme of soliciting the advice of others, I went to EVERFI Teacher Ambassador David Poore. David speaks the language of STEM and 3D printing inside and out.

His advice for us? “It is important for everyone to realize that every 3D printer is different, each software has its own quirks, and different filaments will require different settings and practices. Teachers should practice ahead of time with a colleague who can set you up for success, and expect some frustration and wasted material to ensure a successful print once the students are involved.”

Let’s learn more:

Teacher Feature: Stephanie Grover – Oxford Hills Technical School in Norway, ME.

Stephanie teaches 9-12 Computer Science and Technology.

I live and teach in rural Maine where the primary employers are in the fields of health care, education, retail, and manufacturing. My students are not usually exposed to STEM career fields in their daily interactions and do not see the connections between STEM and their career goals. EVERFI Endeavor is the first project of the year for my grade 9 Computer Science Principles students. Endeavor’s career exploration activities create a link between CS and potential careers and provides the “why” we want to study CS.

The first day of class I ask the students to share a hobby or career, and we brainstorm where STEM intersects the traditional to improve efficiency.

For example:

  • Ambulances carry sophisticated life-saving equipment and can relay real-time information to an ER en route.
  • NASCAR teams use sensors to monitor the track, the racecar, and the driver to optimize performance.
  • Athletes use science and technology to improve their skills. MLB is running a commercial showing how technology is used to broadcast the games.

How about the ability of football and baseball to view instant feedback? To bring CS back to our community we discuss RFID in retail and manufacturing; physical and cybersecurity are critical for the new casino and require a background in technology. I hope my students will see that technology impacts every aspect of their lives and that there are fascinating career opportunities available beyond the familiar coding, networking, and help-desk positions.

On 3D Printing:

Outside of the digital Endeavor programming, I collaborated with our Pre-Engineering teacher, Mr. Dave Langevin, to enhance the Designing the Ultimate Prototype lesson through real 3D printing. This wasn’t my first time working with our Pre-Engineering teacher. He and I have collaborated in the past to bring networking and robotics together. I recommend working with your colleagues to help bridge the gap between subject areas whenever you can.

These lessons are already highly interactive, but there’s a buzz of excitement when the students realize they are going to meet Mr. Langevin and 3D print a sneaker. Because the program is flexible, all students will start with the self-assessment and begin to build their career field guides.

I divide them into four groups; each group will start on a different activity then rotate through the remaining three. As they complete the Designing the Ultimate Prototype lesson, their group will go to the pre-engineering classroom. Mr. Langevin taught the group how to upload their chosen 3D file, manipulate and scale the project to optimize print time (45 min/sneaker), then transfer the file to the printer and initiate the job. Removing the final form from the printer was the highlight of the program for the students. They enjoyed the entire process!

On Collaboration:

The collaborative nature of the 3D printing project allowed the Pre-Engineering upperclassmen to share what they have learned with my freshman. These students are so immersed in technology that they take their skills for granted and do not always appreciate how their skill level has increased. I love seeing their confidence bloom when they realize they can coach another student through a process they initially found daunting. Working with the freshmen also allows our upperclassmen to hone critical mentoring and interpersonal skills. The freshmen seem to like the peer interaction and are more willing to take an academic risk than if they were working with me.

Teacher Feature: Anne deGraauw – Mount Carmel School in Abbeville, LA.

Anne teaches Grade 8 Math and serves as the PK-8 Technology Coordinator.

I use the Endeavor program as a supplement to my eighth grade Algebra I class. This is the time in the students’ lives when they begin to seriously think about their future and what they might like to be when they grow up. The Endeavor program exposed them to a variety of STEM careers that in today’s world are an important option to consider. Most employers are looking for people who are able to collaborate well with others, who have experience with problem solving, and who are innovative thinkers. STEM classes are a way to develop these characteristics in our student so they are prepared to go out into the workforce.

On 3D Printing:

To complete the 3D printing project I worked with the teacher who, at the time, was teaching the Algebra class, so we worked together to plan and teach the students how to use the 3D printer after they had completed the Endeavor program. Once all of the students finished Endeavor’s online lessons and got their passing score, we went to the STEAM lab in our school and each student was able to print their choice of the three 3D sneaker patterns that were included in the module. The students were taught how to remove the filament that was in the printer and how to load the color filament of their choice for their sneaker. We used what we had learned in the module to scale down the model to a size that would allow everyone to get their sneaker printed in one day. These students had never done 3D printing before, so they were very excited to have this opportunity. They were most excited, of course, about actually learning how to use the 3D printer and having an actual model to show their friends.

On Collaboration:

In this project in particular, both my students and I are able to see how collaboration with others works to accomplish goals. We have four printers, so each student took a turn using one of the printers to print their choice of sneaker design, and were able to keep their models as a souvenir of their experience. They worked well together, and some of them who caught on more quickly were able to help those who needed more clarification in the process. With the help of my colleague, I was able to be exposed to ideas of presenting the material that I may not have thought of on my own.

David reminds us, “The best thing for 3D printing newbies to keep in mind is that each project takes time. Don’t be fooled by the term “Rapid Prototyping!” 3D printing is a rapid method to create a model compared to technology of the past that would involve creating a mold, using sand to form a casting negative, and pouring liquid metal to form the product. If you’re planning to print shoes for a whole class, plan accordingly.”

Time to give it a try. The best part about experimenting in STEM is that sometimes we win, but sometimes we learn!


Amber Osuba is the Senior Marketing Manager for K-12. Prior to this role, Amber served as a Senior Implementation Manager supporting educators and districts across Pennsylvania and Maryland for three years. She is a former first grade STEM teacher and curriculum lead. You’ll find her at EVERFI’s national conference booths asking teachers to grab swag, take a selfie and tag @EVERFI.

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