3D Printing Lessons

I had the opportunity to spend a day out at Sardis Secondary School to work with Gail and Mary and their students.

We spent some time taking a look at how Notepad ++ and OpenSCAD worked with NVDA to make coding the 3D digital models accessible to students who are blind. As long as both Notepad++ and OpenSCAD have the same .scad file open, a student would edit the code in Notepad++ with NVDA screen reader support and save those changes, then OpenSCAD (Design -> Automatic Reload and Preview) will automatically update the model to reflect those changes.

In the afternoon, we worked with the 3 students individually to introduce the project and the basics of 3D printing.


The students were able to explore the 3D printer and take a look at the different parts.


I used the game board from Up Words (from the makers of Scrabble) and the letter tiles that came with the game to introduce the concept of how the computer program tells the 3D printer how to print. I indicated the ‘home’ position on the board as the left bottom corner of the game board. I would tell the students “6 across and 5 up” and they would take a tile and count 6 across and 5 up and place the tile on that coordinate. They would return to home position and I would give them a different coordinate “6 across and 4 up”. And on it went until they had built a square shape and built up 3 layers as the tiles are stackable in the Up Words game.

I had hoped that it would give them a good sense of what a 3D printer does as it prints layers on top of other layers.

After the lesson, I reflected and realized that I would do it differently next time. Instead of having them return to home position each time a tile was laid down, I would instead tell them to move one position to the left, right, up or down to create the same formation. The 3D printer nozzle does not return to home base each time it prints a new area of the printed object. Instead, it stays in the vicinity and prints upward.

So after that lesson, I went on to talk about coding and how with a simple line of code, I can create a digital 3D model of a cube in different sizes. I verbally said the code, then handed the 3D printed cube to the student to show that by changing the variable of sizes of the cube itself.

Next steps will be having the students practice writing out the code in a particular prescribed way at first so that we can have the 3D objects corresponding to that code be ready for the students to hold/explore. Then as they get more comfortable around coding, we will take them through the entire process of rendering the 3D object, exporting it to an STL file, importing into a slicing program, exporting the g.code file for printing on the 3D printer.

In the Fall, we’ll introduce the .scad file code for the braille signs and look at how to manipulate the code to customize the name plates for each of the room numbers.

The students are interested and enthusiastic. We’re all looking forward to working on this project together.


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