How a STEM teacher at a Rural School Teaches with 3D Printing and Makers Empire

Michael Freeborn is a K-4 STEM teacher at Turbotville Elementary, a rural school with 1,500 students, which is part of the Warrior Run School District in Turbotville, Pennsylvania. Previously, Michael was a first-grade teacher for fourteen years. Three years ago, he was asked to start a STEM program at his school with the vision to bring more computer science-related activities into the curriculum. We recently spoke with Michael about his experience with 3D printing and Makers Empire.

How did you come across Makers Empire?

“In my first year (of leading the STEM program), some of my students had a desire to learn about 3D printing. I searched the internet to try and find something that could be used for primary level students and progress into the intermediate level students. Through my search, I came across Makers Empire. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money in my budget to use it in my first year. Through online research, I discovered that I could enter a contest to win a subscription to the software through the GE Additive Program. Later that spring, I found out I was selected to win a free year subscription to Makers Empire, a 3D printer, and other online lessons. I introduced Makers Empire to my students for a 3D printing unit and they absolutely loved it. I have continued the subscription and use it every year.”

What do your students like most about Makers Empire?

“The students love the Game Zone, the challenges, and just being able to create on their own!”

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What have been the benefits of using Makers Empire with your students?

“Students have been getting much better with the scaling concept.  In the beginning, students are not familiar with the proportions or sizes of what the 3D object actually looks like.  I have my 3D printer set up in a common hallway so students can see creations being printed when they are walking through the halls. They are curious with the creations and like seeing peers work being turned into 3D creations. I love that even though we are a rural school, students can still be a part of such innovative technology!  I love the collaboration it teaches. I like when students figure something out, they can then show others how to do it. The Game Zone mazes have created a friendly competition to compete against each other and to come up with mazes to challenge other classmates!”

What advice would you give to teachers new to 3D design and 3D printing?

“I would say: give it a try.  The challenges and lessons in the blog are so helpful for someone just trying out.  The online professional development makes it easy to figure out problems as well. I would say, don’t be afraid if you don’t know a lot about 3D design and printing.  The students figure things out so quickly and love showing others what they have learned!”

What would you say to those thinking about trying Makers Empire?

“I would say to schools to definitely show this to their teachers!  I set up my classes so that they can keep their creations in their gallery from year to year. So many teachers are trying to come up with ways to utilize project-based assessments in their classrooms and this would definitely help in this process. The assessment tool that lets you look at the criteria of multiple students’ work makes it a smooth transition to look at different student projects at once.”  

Thanks for sharing your Makers Empire experience with us, Michael. We look forward to seeing what you and your students come up with in the future. 

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