Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Milwaukee Montessori Expands Education With 3D Printers
by Jessica Tighe

You've heard about 3D printers being used in manufacturing, medicine and design. Some of the country's best business colleges are using them as well. Now so are fifth and sixth graders at Milwaukee Montessori School.

Quinn Thompson, a soon-to-be sixth grader at Milwaukee Montessori School, just created his first model using a 3D printer.

"I had to make a jail there to enforce the law. I also have a little house I made for my friend in the village," Thompson says showing off his village to CBS 58 Morning Anchor Jessica Tighe.

Thompson came up with the concept, plotted the design out on the computer and watched a 3D printer make it come to life in plastic.

"I was a little shocked at first because I didn't know if it was possible. Then I saw it in action and I was very interested in it," he says excitedly.

The kids at Milwaukee Montessori are having a blast with the school's new 3D printer and while it's a whole lot of fun, there's also a whole lot of learning involved!

"A lot of this I have to manipulate because I have to wonder will this stand up because I have a little inn over there. It's the one with three houses sticking out of it. I didn't know if those were going to stand up at first so I had to put pillars to support it," Thompson says.

While Thompson marvels at his completed project, Meghan McArdle is watching hers come to life right now.

"I decided I wanted to build a castle. Pretty much we're just learning how to prototype because in the future if I wanted to build something I would probably make a model of it first to see if it would actually stand by itself or would it break," McArdle explains.

It took McCardle more than a week on the computer to perfect her castle. The models are intricate.

"I made a big entrance so you'll be able to see it on my print," McArdle says as she shows off the design on the computer. "That's a stove and these are pots to boil stuff in," she says as she continues to show off the kitchen she's designed in her castle.

McArdle isn't just creating the outside of the castle. There's a lot more that goes into this and that's what the staff at Milwaukee Montessori loves.

"Students start thinking from an engineering point of view and that translation from the digital world to the physical world becomes very obvious once we start printing," Ian Anastas, Director of Instructional Technology explains of the process.

Sometimes the students make mistakes. Thompson shows Tighe where a flag he created fell over.

"This is the one that kinda broke off," he says.

It's a little mistake that turned into a great learning moment.

"To see that aha moment when a student prints something and just for example it doesn't work, but they understand why it didn't work. They understand what they need to do to make it work. That's very, as far as teaching goes, a very hard thing to come upon," Anastas says.

The 3D printer is a high-tech tool that creates a hands-on project. It challenges the students minds and imagination.

"It's about constantly pushing the envelope and innovating as a school so that we can teach our students to be innovators," Milwaukee Montessori Principal Monica Van Aken says.

That's a philosophy that's not lost on the kids. They're thinking big.

"I think next, maybe, just maybe we can make certain action figures. Maybe we can even make a human body out of the 3D printer," Thompson proclaims!

The National Association of Independent Schools named Milwaukee Montessori a "School of the Future" for using advanced technology in the classroom. The 3D printers are just one example of that.