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April 3, 2014

Going 3-D: Rockport schools using high-tech printer in science, engineering classes

A new piece of technology — a 3-D printer — came to the rescue at Rockport High School when a science teacher wanted to show her students how a cubic centimeter is the same as a milliliter.

The 3-D printer makes a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.

The science teacher, Barbara Swanson, met with Dave Young, the technology and engineering teacher, about her idea, which he then designed on the computer and then printed out the tiny pieces of plastics on the new machine, which has been in use now for about a month. He “printed” a 1-centimeter cube and a one cubic centimeter cup that the cube fits into.

“She (Swanson) wanted to show the students visually, in a hands-on way, that a cubic centimeter is the same as a milliliter in the metric system,” said Young. The students could see that a 1-centimeter cube fits inside the container, and put water in the one cubic centimeter cup and poured it into a graduated cylinder which measures milliliters so they could see that the cubic centimeter is the same as a milliliter.

“She said for some of the students, the light bulb went off in a way that hadn’t before no matter how hard she tried to explain it,” said Young.

This is just one way that the 3-D printer can create teaching materials for other teachers to be used as manipulatives.

Wednesday morning, a group of parents watched a demonstration of the 3-D printer, as it printed out a 6-inch rod — part of a bird perch designed by a student in Young’s tech design class.

In another application of the new technology, a geography teacher asked if Young could make a relief map of the continents. He’s working on that now.

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