When Upper Dublin High School (UDHS) senior Jacob McCauley wanted to share his love of 3D printing with kids, he wasn’t shy about asking. Jacob has more experience with 3D printers than probably most high school students. He helped set up the ones in the high school media center and was even permitted to use one at Princeton University after he took the initiative to connect with a professor there. So when Jacob learned about the Upper Dublin Public Library’s 3D printers at a presentation given by Upper Dublin Librarian Molly Kane on one of her visits to the high school, he had found his opportunity.
“By doing things [like teaching 3D printing], I can have an impact on people,” said Jacob when asked why he wanted to present Introductions to 3D printing lessons for elementary through middle school students at the Upper Dublin Public Library. “You have to make people excited about it [3D printing], and that’s what I want to do.”
From what I could tell when I attended Jacob’s recent class on December 26, he certainly excited a group of 3rd to 5th graders about 3D printing. Having begun with a brief presentation about what 3D printing is and how it is being used (the kids got a kick out of seeing an image of a 3D-printed 3D printer), the participants spent most of the time creating a design in Tinkercad, “a free online collection of software tools that help people all over the world think, create and make.”
It was 5th grader David’s first experience with 3D printing design. He had designed a building, a person and an “alphabet toy.” David said it was “fun to explore 3D printing,” and when asked what he wished he could design, he said, “a ginormous skyscraper.”
Jacob’s Introductions to 3D Printing for elementary and middle school students are presented as part of the offerings from the UDPL STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) Lab, which was launched with a Library Services and Technology Act grant in 2015. Recognizing technological literacy as a real and necessary skill in today’s world, the UDPL STEAM Lab was created to help build skills and spark imaginations by introducing residents to cutting-edge technology. The UDPL’s five 3D printers, including a recently purchased Toybox printer designed specifically for elementary aged students, are part of the UDPL STEAM Lab initiative.
Since its inception, high school students, like Jacob, have helped the Library further the vision for the UDPL STEAM Lab by supporting and even sometimes creating and facilitating programs for younger students. According to Molly Kane, Head of Teen Services and Emerging Technologies, “UDPL’s original LSTA grant funds were used, in part, to develop programs for students in grades 6-12. Even though we now offer programs for people of all age groups, it’s the middle and high school students who always take our programs and technology to the next level. Our volunteers who work on STEAM Lab projects are the ones who teach me!” It’s a win-win situation where a carefully selected group of students have the opportunity to make a difference while also earning credit towards honor societies, school assignments or other service projects.
Although Jacob’s programs at the Library also served as his senior year culminating project, it was clear to me that having an impact was what mattered most. Said Jacob, “I just want to be a part of it; I want to help a lot of people, help out the world.”
Of his students, he had the most to say about the youngest ones. He recognized that the elementary school students asked more questions and took more risks than the middle school students. One young student even taught Jacob about a button in the software he wasn’t aware of. Jacob’s advice for learning about 3D printing design also resonates as a life lesson for taking chances “Click all the buttons and see what happens.”