Monday, February 29, 2016

8 unexpected places to buy 3D printers under $1,000

Ever cruise around your favorite store online and just happen to find a product you are surprised they sold? Well that happened to me today with 3D printers. I was surprised to find that Michael's Arts and Crafts sold 3D printers. Here are 8 mainstream stores I was surprised to find sold printers for under $1,000. Now don't get me wrong, there are several sites online that sell 3D printers and I am not saying these are the best or the worst printers or prices out there. I was just surprised that these stores sold them. Click the store to be taken to the site.

       Home Depot 
       Office Depot  
       Best Buy 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Twitter #GirlsinSTEM

I am still learning the ropes of Twitter but apparently I must have done something right because one of my Tweets landed me on the official Girl Scout page. One of the 3D printing programs I did with a brownie and daisy troop was retweeted by Girl Scouts. A small accomplishment to some, but for me, I'm super excited! Let me have this moment of shear bliss. Now, back to life off social media.

Cube 3D Printer Discontinued

Most of you, if you follow along, know that I received a Cube 3D printer last Spring from 3D Systems as a means to teach students, especially young girls, about 3D printing and other engineering tasks. Well, I was sad to learn yesterday that the Cube is being discontinued because it is not profitable for the company. They are hoping to sell more of their top of the line model, the Cube Pro, which they are hoping can be a sufficient educational as well as professional model. However, those cost $2979 with tax and shipping. The Cube cost about a third that, but luckily mine was free. Safe to say, I will not be able to sway the adults I typically have attend my free programs to buy a Cube Pro. Nor will I be able to rush out and purchase one myself. I am going to keep the Cube that I have and use the remaining material coils I purchased before Christmas for as long as I can.  I hope to be able to raise enough money to buy as many material coils as I can so I can continue to put on my free 3D printing programs to small, rural communities across the country.

A small donation of $2 can ensure that a young girl or boy receives a wearable take home 3D printed item to show their friends, family, and community. If you would like to make a monetary donation to ensure the sustainability of my free 3D printing programs, you can do so here: 

I will continue to hold free programs and post about the activities and results as long as I have printing materials and funding. Thank you for your interest and support in my programs.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Public Library 3D Printing Program

Our county has 4 public libraries that share a new 3D printer. The librarian hosted a 3D printing program for kids and their parents at the smallest of the 4 libraries. I was asked to come along and demonstrate the similarities and differences between my Cube printer and her Lulzbot.

There were around 45 people who attended the program throughout the day. A surprising amount considering the last census said there were only 98 people in the town. The librarian used the Lulzbot 3D printer to print cookie cutters that each of the kids designed using Cookie Caster, a free online graphics design program.
It was fun to see the types of designs the kids made. The designs ranged from intricate dragons to simple triangles. I demonstrated my Cube printing technology along side the Lulzbot. Adults asked several questions and the kids were amazed at the quality of the prints and the details that could be obtained with each print. I have been asked to attend another 3D printing program with a second of the four libraries next month.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cadet Girl Scouts and 3D printing

Another successful night of activities. The Cadet Girl Scouts are 6th and 7th graders. I was a little worried that older girl scouts would maybe be a little less enthusiastic about engineering, technology, and 3D printing but I was worried for nothing. The girls, leaders, and parents were all very interested and engaged in the activities.

To start the meeting, I posed the question "what is an engineer and what is a technologist?" The girls gave some amazing definitions of what tasks they thought engineers completed but there were no answers for a technologist. I ended up giving my favorite description of the two career paths and then followed up with some of the work I have completed in college and while in different summer jobs. I described some of the different engineering and technology disciplines as well. A few girls raised their hands saying they would like to be an engineer one day but were unsure as to which discipline yet. I talked briefly about the engineering and technology design process and discussed how we would be talking more about the importance of sketching as communication and prototyping...mainly with a 3D printer.

The first activity was for the girls to use the sketch books I gave them and draw what was being described to them. Three girls took turns describing a sketch of a robotic dog while the remaining girls tried to draw what they were hearing. After a few laughs of showing off the drawings, I emphasized the importance of sketching as a form of communication. Since designers, engineers, and technologists often work in teams, it is much easier for a designer of a product to draw the product and show his team to prototype it rather than try to solely verbally describe it.

Next, I showed the girls several samples of 3D printed objects that show 1) how the product is built up in layers, 2) how the product can be printed with interlocking pieces, 3) how the product can be flexible, 4) how the product can be printed in several separate pieces that can be connected later, and 5) how the printer can print several different textures. To visually demonstrate how a 3D printer works, I showed them the glue gun and talked about how it heated up the glue coil and ejected the melted material out the nozzle which then cooled in the desired shape. The girls made coil pots out of playdough to demonstrate how the material is built up in layers to form a shape. Lastly, I used a slinky to demonstrate how the computer software will take a graphic design and slice it into several layers in order to make the printing pattern.

I showed the girls how I designed the charms on, sent the graphic to the cubify software app, and then we printed a charm. While the charm was printing, the girls drew out their desired layout of the beads for their necklaces and assembled the necklaces while periodically checking on the progress of the Cube 3D printer. The girls seemed to really love all the activities and were excited to show their necklaces with the 3D printed charm to their parents, teachers, and classmates.

After the meeting, the leader told me her daughter talked about the meeting all through dinner. The leader also received a couple phone calls from parents thanking the leader for the amazing program and explaining how much fun their daughters had. All in all I would say that it was another successful troop meeting.



Monday, November 16, 2015

Daisy Scouts learn a little about 3D printing and design

 Daisy Scouts are adorable. This troop of 16 girls was very excited to learn and participate in hands on activities. At this meeting in a rural mountain setting, I started off by telling the girls a bit about myself and why I was so interested in Engineering and Technology. I was sure to ask the girls what they thought engineering was and of course I got the standard "engineers drive a train" answers. I chose to focus on the fact that engineers and technologists are problem solvers who design, build, and test things that make life better or easier. Remembering that Daisy Scouts are in Kindergarten and First Grade I tried to keep it pretty basic but I did tell the girls that I loved being creative and enjoyed subjects like art and music that helped foster creativity and problem solving. So many students are told that they can only be engineers if they love math and science. Of course that is helpful but not necessary. I told the girls that I have designed things like cars, airplanes, rockets, bridges, websites, etc. The girls seemed amazed and said things like "wow," "I love being creative too," and best yet, "I want to be just like you when I grow up." After our introduction, I showed the girls items that the Cube had printed. I told them a bit about the printing material and how the printer works. In order for the girls to better understand how the printer builds up the material in layers to form an object, I had the girls used Play-doh to make coil pots. To show the girls how the printer melts the plastic, I used a glue gun.

I then showed the girls the necklace I had made. I wanted the girls to understand how important design and sketching can be to the result of a finished product so I showed the girls how I first drew the necklace on paper, second, made a 3D model in the computer, and last printed out the charm and assembled the necklace to look exactly like my sketch. I had pre-printed 16 charms and had made each girl a pocket sketch book that they could take with them and the girls used those to draw out their necklace designs and color them according to the color beads they wanted to use. After the sketches were done, the girls assembled the necklaces they designed. The day after the meeting, I was walking through town and I passed two girls on the sidewalk who waved and showed me that they were wearing their necklaces. I was so excited that the girls had had so much fun at the meeting.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Back to Libraries

I just got a phone call asking if I would put together an hour long presentation and demonstration using my Cube 3D printer. I will visit four separate local libraries and put on these presentations. As many of you know, I have this 3D printer for just this reason (free outreach programs). However, I do not like a straight up presentation. I am going to make these visits as fun interactive as possible. I totally believe in the power of learning through hands-on experiences and it can be challenging with only one computer, one piece of software, and one 3D printer but you better bet I will work my creative magic with this task.  More info to come on how this all gets planned out. Stay tuned.