BLOOMINGTON — Through the power of 3-D knowledge, local high school students are helping Twin City businesses while gaining experience for future careers.

Rob Martin is the president of Open Source Classroom LLC in downtown Bloomington. Over the past year, he spearheaded a pilot program for 20 high school students to learn “3-D Literacy” — a term Martin trademarked.

It covers knowledge of 3-D printing and 3-D computer-aided design and programming.

Martin organized the weekly 3-D Literacy workshop for students with help from fellow educator Tom Fraizer, director of the Bloomington Area Career Center.

“We were imagining new ways to deliver awesome educational experiences to kids,” said Martin.

From September to April, students learned how to use 3-D printers, digitally scan items and design final products at the Open Source Classroom at 200 W. Monroe St.

The experience was hands-on for students with access to 3-D printers, laser cutting machines and other electrical tools.

For the final project, students partnered with five local businesses or agencies. Midwest Molding, Bloomington Police Department, Millennium Pain Center, McLean County Museum of History and State Farm presented minor obstacles in their work that could be fixed with a 3-D printed item.

The museum wanted to digitize artifacts so items could be 3-D printed and sold in the gift shop, and Midwest Molding requested a more efficient way to cut foam and tabs from plastic parts. The Pain Center asked students to create a device that could attach to gurneys and hold wires and tubes during treatments.

The final 3-D printed projects were presented earlier this week.

Natalie Clark, Normal Community West High School junior, said she is interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and she wanted to give the program a try.

“I learned a lot more than I thought I would,” said Clark after completing the workshop.

She said she learned unique 3-D computer-aided design modeling programs and studied the workings behind 3-D printers and how to put together circuits and wiring in the printers.

“This opened up a lot of different aspects of the STEM field I didn’t know were there before. You can do so much with 3-D printers,” she said.

Normal West senior Katie Scherman said she has a passion for computer science and was encouraged to join the program by her high school computer teacher.

Producing objects with 3-D printing "is a really cool technology that not a lot of people have access to yet," she said. "It will become more common in the future, so it’s good to gain this knowledge and get ahead in those STEM-related fields while I can.”

She said the program was different from other computer-aided design classes in high school because it had a different focus.

“Things I do at the high school are more coding oriented whereas this had more of an engineering aspect through the design and actual production of products,” said Scherman.

Martin said he has watched the students “really come a long way” since day one.

“A lot of it isn’t even just an increase in technical knowledge, it’s an increase in overall confidence. They’ve gained the ability to approach a problem and come up with solutions,” said Martin.

Martin plans to offer the program again for high school students after making some instructional adjustments.

“I’d like to see this continue and really become a melting pot of creativity and sharing,” he said.

More information about future 3-D Literacy classes at Open Source Classroom can be found at www.3D-x.org.

Follow Julia Evelsizer on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer


Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for The Pantagraph.

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