In December my school’s PTO approved my grant for a 3D printer. Yes! Now we can print 3D artifacts using BeetleBlocks. My idea for the 4th graders’ first project is to design a 3D model of their name using BeetleBlocks code.
School name printed by school printer using Beetleblocks code
I started with one of my math enrichment groups first. They were my small group test of the idea. This group has played with BeetleBlocks but most recently had been making math games in Scratch.
It only takes about 5 blocks of code to write your name and make a cuboid to keep all the letters together. It takes a little bit more time to make decisions about the size of the text, the size of the cuboid and where you want to put the block that keeps the letters together.
basic code stub for project
I gave them the constraints that their name had to fit on the BeetleBlocks grid (20 by 20 ) but they could have their name with the support cuboid behind or below.
Name on grid with support cuboid below
The technically difficult part was getting the STL files saved where I could access them and that only had to do with the way our computers are networked.
3D print of name with cuboid behind
The students were really excited about everything and just wanted to sit around the printer and watch it print.
I was able to print three names at a time. I would have been able to print all nine students names in the time allowed, but I got cocky and changed filament in the middle and that caused a jam that I was not able to resolved before the end of the day.
3D prints in MakerGeek’s Crystal blue PLA
You have to understand that the printer arrived at school on Monday and we were printing this project on Friday. On Monday, the 4th graders voted on the filament color for their grade (Crystal blue, by the way) and on Friday, during the middle of printing, the filament arrived!
Based on this experience, I made a one page handout 3d-model-your-name-in-beetleblocks for the next time. The next group to try this will be the rest of the students in this class. These first nine will be my experts and help the rest of their class code and export their models. My goal is to have all three 4th grade classes code and print a 3D model of their name. Then I’ll try it with the 3rd graders.
The only curious thing I’ve found with BeetleBlocks is the rotational changes that I have to either code up front or adjust in Cura (printer software) to get the correct orientation for printing.
Strangely, when I save the model on the left, it will import into Cura with correct orientation for printing.
Details about our 3D printer: The grant was for a $400 Printrbot Play. It is a small printer with a small print bed size – 100 x 100 x 120 mm. The Play received a few nods from MakeMagazine and 3Dprint.com 3D printer guides. I also have 2 years of experience with Printrbot printers – we have a personal Printrbot Simple at home.