Adventures in 3D Printing

As the makerspace craze continues to sweep across libraries nationwide, school libraries are trying to come up with ways to engage students in meaningful makerspace work. This year the majority of my time at the close of the semester has been spent in the makerspace with classes, more specifically students using the 3D printer. 3D printing has been available here for the past three years, but this is the first year that the usage has been overwhelming from multiple projects and content areas.

Across Content Areas

When we introduced our makerspace area the attraction to the 3D printer was slow going. Initially students were guided more toward pre-created file sites, like to find items. Students wanted to do more crafting-type projects or building types of activities over tech-related offerings. Last year projects began to pick up when I had a student interested in cosplay who wanted to print costume accessories. From this purely nonacademic project an evolution began that became school content related.

Various subject areas have caught on to what the creativity of the 3D printer can do. I have worked with theater, English, and social studies classes the most so far, but science has expressed an interest in doing more work in this area next year. The projects have evolved from the basic pre-made file to using additional tools like Customizer and Tinkercad to manipulate printer files and add more personalization to projects.


Across Project Types

Not all of the types of projects are the same; students are coming up with extremely creative ways of incorporating 3D printing across project types. Students in theater are printing scale models of furniture, statues, and columns to create their final project for stage design. In English classes students are finding objects that symbolize the topic of their final projects, printing them, and then presenting these pieces as additional illustrations to their written work. Furthermore, in social studies students have printed replicas of historical figures, monuments, and iconic locations to represent their learning on various topics.

Adventures in the Future

From the upward usage of the 3D printer last year and into this year I will continue to write grants and advocate for an additional 3D printer for our makerspace area. With the approximately 3,000 students in attendance, the largest barrier to date has been time and durability of the printer. If we were to have an additional printer I would be able to accommodate more student projects in a timely manner, and cut down on the continuous usage of the machine, which causes breakage and other problems.  

The addition of the 3D printer into the school library setting has been valuable to multiple subject areas. It has created opportunities for new and interesting additions to class projects. Creating a meaningful experience using the 3D printer has growing pains, but once collaboration with teachers and students begins, more and meaningful projects will follow. 3D printing is an adventure in creativity, design, and collaboration that will continue into our next school year.



Author: Elizabeth Libberton

Elizabeth Libberton is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the ALA Awards Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the steering committee for the AISLE Lincoln Book Award.

Categories: Blog Topics, Makerspaces/Learning Commons, STEM/STEAM, Technology

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1 reply

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with 3D printer in a High School setting. You said the printer has been available for the 3 years, but only recently has experienced a higher level of use. What were the barriers to it being used when it was first purchased? I teach at an elementary school level, from your experience, do you think there would be value in having access to a 3D printer in elementary school?

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