MassCUE Grants: Innovation Lab with 3D Printers

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MassCUE Grant Funding in Action
Innovation Lab Takes Off with 3D Printers

by Brandon Hall and Christine Murphy

When Covid precautions caused us all to reconfigure entire school buildings in the fall of 2020, educators began to reimagine old spaces that were now suddenly unused. After receiving Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding, the Pembroke Public Schools were able to supply every student in our district with a device and completely eliminate the use of shared computer labs, freeing up many classroom spaces. One of those spaces was the library computer lab at Pembroke High School, which was now a completely empty room smack dab in the middle of our library. We had long talked about turning the space into a makerlab, but lacked the time, resources, or space to really make it happen. Desktop computers and tables took up much of the area and our students did not have devices of their own. Now with a 1:1 Chromebook program, we were able to empty the space down to tables and take some donations to make the area usable. A donated gallon of chroma key paint allowed for the creation of a greenscreen wall, as well as the purchase of podcasting equipment allowed us to finish off a media creation space. The next logical addition for our newly named Innovation Lab would be 3D printers.

Grants - 3D PrintersWhen the MassCUE Grant Committee opened their grants process in the fall of 2021, we knew we had to jump at the opportunity to further outfit our Innovation Lab. After a bit of research and brainstorming, we came to the conclusion that FlashForge 3D printers were the most reliable, hardest working devices we could put in the space. Our library media specialist, Christine Murphy, and I set to work on the application process and clearing the space for use. We were able to repurpose an old six foot by six foot woodworking bench for use as a very sturdy, durable table top to hold printers. After being approved for the MassCUE Grant, we purchased our items straightaway: four FlashForge Adventurer 3 printers, two boxes of twelve spools of filament, and a set of 3D printing tools for finishing pieces.

No sooner did we place the order than did they arrive, and we began the set up process. There were several eager students ready to create and make when they saw the boxes opened up. At first, we allowed any student to create anything they wanted; as word spread around the students, it also spread amongst teachers. By the end of June, a mere two months since we received the printers, we had at least a dozen classes of 25 students each come to the Innovation Lab, learn how to make things with Tinkercad or find designs from Thingiverse and tweak them. The projects ranged from “things they would have carried” from the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien to items Boo Radley would have placed in his tree in To Kill A Mockingbird. We also had staff come in and work on designs for projects and things they need for their classrooms. One biology teacher created an electrophoresis gel comb for DNA gene sequencing. He had been purchasing the combs for $50 a piece, and we were able to replicate the design and print them for pennies on the dollar. It has truly been an interdisciplinary, cross-curricular experience watching students and staff alike design and make in Tinkercad for all courses. Our AP Chemistry teacher even had students design engines and fins for elephant toothpaste rockets.

Grants 3D PrintersAs far as the future is concerned, the development of the Innovation Lab is expected to include esports terminals, collaboration space, textile manufacturing, and further design of products like buttons, cups, and tee shirts. Further, our work with the Enabling the Future program looks to continue now that we’ve increased our 3D printer capacity, allowing our students the ability to complete further 3D printed hands.


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About the Authors

Brandon Hall is the Director of Instructional Technology for Pembroke Public Schools.  Christine Murphy is a Library Media Specialist for Pembroke High School.

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If you would like to learn more about MassCUE Grants, visit our Grants Committee page.

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