California Middle School students brought new meaning to the term handmade gifts, by distributing 3-D printed items to California School District staff members as the 2018 springs semester comes to a close.
Although the technology students didn't craft the gifts by hand, they spent hours measuring, designing and printing Teacher Appreciation Week presents like pencil holders, coasters and key chains for appreciative teachers and staff members.
The project was part of a two-week unit, in which students researched to design items and operate the technology, then given two days to make their own creation. All of the items cost the school less than a dollar to make, but were worth far more in sentimental value.
Technology teacher Jeanne Beck said 3-D printing helps the students build computer skills, critical thinking and creative design. The class has had a 3-D printer for the past school year and students are still learning the technology's capabilities and how to manipulate it to meet their goals. Some of the students said learning how to digitally create these objects will help them reach career aspirations like video game design.
Sixth grader Emilee Purl said her favorite part of creating the gifts was seeing the appreciative looks on the teachers and staff members' faces, like the big smile from pre-K Para-Professional Kimberly Scheidt when Purl and Cadence Vanderpool delivered a horse shoe-imprinted pencil holder.
"I just like to see people smile," Purl said.
With 3-D printing, three dimensional items are designed on a computer before they are manufactured by a machine that builds a desired object by applying successive layers of a plastic material, as if it were dessert icing. While some 3-D printing systems have been used to create compact houses, the students were limited to small trinkets that could be constructed in their classroom printer, which took about an hour to produce gifts the size of a magnet.
Teachers and staff members specified design elements that they would like to see for their gifts, from favorite quotes like, "Life is a journey, not a race," to pictures of beloved animals, such as a mustang or koala. Many students said measuring how far to indent text or pictures so they can stand out without using different colors was the one of the hardest parts of the project.
Science teacher Darrell Bolin was especially demanding, requesting four specialized key chains for some of his family members. Beck said he might have wanted to see how much seventh graders Gage Nott and Hunter Rantz could accomplish with the technology since they will be two of his students next semester.
"You guys did awesome," Bolin said as he happily received the custom key chains, apparently pleased with his future students' work.