c Craig Schroth’s fifth and sixth grade STEAM Lab classes are carving pumpkins. But, there are no pumpkins in the room. Students sit at their computers and each build and carve their own virtual pumpkin in a three-dimensional computer aided design (CAD) program. When they are complete, Schroth will print them on a 3-D printer.
“It takes a long time, but it’s cool,” said one student. “Cool” is the word most students use to describe the project. The pumpkins start to take shape. Students “group” repeated elliptical spheres to create scalloped edges, then add a cylindrical stem. On each screen, orange shapes come together to form what is, unmistakably, a pumpkin.
To hollow out the pumpkin, students place a sphere in the middle. It does not affect the surface design but “it makes printing more efficient,” Schroth explains. “I have two printers and many students and I want to fill the display case with as many projects as possible.”
The students have been following instructions up to this point, but now they get creative. Students add jack-o-lantern faces using various shapes and designs. Eyes appear as stars and hearts. One pumpkin has sunglasses and a mustache.
When compared with traditional pumpkin carving, one student argues that she doesn’t like getting pumpkin guts on her hands. Another argues that virtual pumpkins have no seeds, a favorite snack of hers. When asked if he would like to continue working in 3-D design in high school, another student simply blurts, “Yes!”
“This project has been a great way for students to explore the use of computer-aided design programs in 3-D modeling and prototyping,” said Schroth. “Students are applying skills that they have learned in math class through angles, measurement, and geometry to design a model they can actually hold on to with 3-D printing.”
In the front hallway of the Elementary School, a large display case holds a tractor and wagon, both built by third grade students. The tractor is driven by the STEAM Lab robot mascot, named Byron, and the tractor displays rows of 3-D printed jack-o-lanterns. Picked fresh daily. Well, printed fresh daily.