At our secondary school we established an open digital workshop in which the students can develop creative ideas to implement and present them in various projects. They use techniques such as 3D modeling and 3D printing, plotting and laser cutting, programming drones or robots and single-board computers as well as various forms of audiovisual media production and classic forms of DIY like soldering, sewing or knitting.
Since three years approaches of the outlined idea of implementing making activities in schools have been successively established. Immediately after acquiring the first 3D printer in 2016, a first group of students tested 3D modeling programs and printed their own products. Since then, every year an elective course takes places in our Makerspace. The interest was so immense that the one-hour elective lesson was extended to three hours and flexible additional weekdays are offered. Further equipment could be purchased to offer a broader range of maker-based activities, e.g. virtual reality glasses and a VR-ready computer.
Teachers who want to establish a maker space in schools need equipment which is easy to handle, has a long lifetime and forgives mistakes. The first difficulty we had was the selection of printers. We made very good experiences with Ultimaker 3D printers which could be even operated by younger students. In a next step we printed a lot to get know to the technology. Fortunately, Ultimaker 3D printers work with freeware like Ultimaker Cura as slicing software and we found with tinkerCAD (www.tinkercad.com) a powerful online tool to create own designs. This tool is also easy to use, even for younger students, and for free.
As we proceeded, we introduced our new equipment to our younger students in additional courses. After a short period of habituation this students are able to be 3D experts in class if teachers want to implement maker-based activities in their lessons. With increasing experience we could start to implement these activities more and more into school lessons. For example, we are able to print models for science lessons that are able to be manipulated by our students. Furthermore, we let our students do their own 3D models, e.g. within arts lessons. In one project advanced level students created designer hooks which are quite funny. But also lower grade students are able to create 3D models as we could see in geography lessons and our elective course.
To implement maker-based activities in lessons, you need furthermore pc rooms with class sets and a sufficient network. TinkerCAD works also on tablets, but handling 3D models without a mouse is quite challenging. To monitor and evaluate the students’ work, it is practicable to offer one account to the students which could be used by all of them at the same time. Note that the students have to rename their work and label them with their names. After a short introduction about the general functions in tinkerCAD, even younger students are able to create complex models within few units. To print them, you have to count in more time if you have only one or two 3D printers. This could be done by the 3D experts for example. Including students into important tasks has a huge potential to create an open and creative working attitude which gives the possibility to increase motivation and also grades. Working together trains equally students and teachers and leads to an enjoyable classroom or even school climate.