Middle Schoolers Master New Technology

Fifth grader Milo Jurken '28 leaned over as the 3D printer hummed. He couldn't wait for it to finish his next creation during technology class. All his models – a turquoise octopus, a miniature table with seats, a blue bean bag chair, and an intricate ice cream parlor – were first plotted through computer-aided design (CAD) software and then printed as plastic replicas.

"It's just like my 3-D printer at home," Milo said, his voice full of excitement. "This class inspired me to get one. It's a great class. I really like it because I found something that's fun, and I spend a lot of time on it."

Technology Education Teacher Carrie Johnson is thrilled with her fifth graders' enthusiasm for learning CAD and their first classroom exposure to 3D printing. Typically, these middle schoolers aren't taught either, but due to pandemic scheduling changes, Mrs. Johnson now has nine weeks with her pupils, plenty of time to cover the lessons.

"My students are super creative; they're running with it," she said. "Their parents tell me it's all their kids are taking about. The progress of this class is incredible." Working with CAD and the 3D printer requires critical thinking skills and a great deal of math, as everything needs to be measured and converted to metrics. Her students first learned TinkerCAD, an online modeling program, and then she tasked them with making five pieces of furniture: a couch, bed, table, and chairs, and with the last being their choice. For each item, students had specific measurements to follow so all would be to scale.

Mrs. Johnson hopes that some of her students' interest will translate into a passion for a future career, as 3D printing is being used in innovative ways, from building houses for the homeless to making proesthetics for patients.

Fifth grader Katie Fortunato '28 had fun making her 3D furnishings, including a table that glows in the dark and heart-shaped chairs. "It's really creative," she said. "I explore furniture pieces on the website, and they come to life. I didn't know I could do this until I took this class. I'm happy I did."