Ultimaker Printers at Kailua Elementary

Inspiring creativity through 3D printing at Kailua Elementary School

  • Written by Meaghan McBee
    Sep 27, 2017

Located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Kailua Elementary School is looking to the future of technology. After incorporating Ultimaker printers into their tech-inspired courses, the school saw an increase in student engagement and discovered the potential for collaborative experiences within the educational community.

Despite starting off with no 3D printing experience, Greg Kent now considers the process of additive manufacturing a vital part of his mission as the Technology Coordinator at Kailua Elementary School. His goal to develop meaningful curriculum with fellow faculty members began taking shape when he integrated 3D printing into the school’s activities and saw the potential in the process. As a result, working with students from pre-kindergarten to 6th grade on intensive 3D printing projects has sparked positive responses from faculty and students alike.

Ultimaker printing
Watching an Ultimaker print come to life

Having spent 18 years in the Hawaii Department of Education, Greg understands the importance of challenging students and encouraging creativity with the latest technologies. “Lego, coding, and robotics were the foundation of our makerspace and the curriculum that we have created for our students,” he says. These tools became crucial stepping stones to the 3D printing projects and curriculum managed by educators at Kailua Elementary School.

Our units are rigorous but the students are engaged and love to be there. The teachers do too because they see how excited and engaged the students are.

Although this is the first year they’re using 3D printing, Greg says the teachers he works with have quickly adapted and are excited to integrate Ultimaker into their courses as a core part of the school's curriculum.

Ultimaker 2+
Printing the 'Get Hands Dirty' logo by Cristiana Felgueiras

Not only is the faculty flexible when it comes to planning out 3D printing projects, but Greg says they’re willing to dive in and make the most out of the tools at hand. He’s seen steady support from the Kailua Elementary's leadership, too. “I would not be where I am without our principal, James Rippard," Greg says. "He is focused and energetic. I can always go to him if I need help or have an idea I want to try to implement.”

A growing Ultimaker collection

One of the main reasons Greg was initially drawn to Ultimaker is the active online community, including the robust Ultimaker Pioneer program for educators. Once he had the chance to use an Ultimaker, he recognized how consistent and capable the machine can be in an educational setting.

Ultimaker printers
An Ultimaker 2+ and an Ultimaker 2 Extended+

Today, the school has one Ultimaker 2+ and two Ultimaker 2 Extended+ printers on hand, with the hopes of growing their collection to accommodate long-term classroom projects. As multiple departments are welcome to use the printers on a daily basis, the nearly constant operation requires accessibility and ease of maintenance.

Ultimaker just works, day in and day out.

Because Ultimaker printers are rugged, reliable, and accessible, Greg says faculty members are able to meet consistent deadlines with smooth transitions between projects. This is especially important as they branch out and develop new programs with other schools in the area. “We have had teacher training and are working on creating grade-level projects that build on each other,” Greg explains. “We are also developing partnerships with teachers at other schools locally and on the mainland.”

Ultimaker print
An Ultimaker hard at work on a student's print
Ultimaker star print
A star print nearly completed on an Ultimaker

As an avid member of Ultimaker’s Pioneer Program, Greg finds the community’s resources valuable for training, support, and collaboration when it comes to dreaming up new projects for his school’s curriculum.

“My goal is to collaborate with other educators to create year-long themes broken down into monthly or quarterly units that connect to what students are interested in,” Greg says. “I want students to walk into the makerspace and choose the tool that will work best for the challenge they are facing.”

Opening doors to creativity and collaboration

One of the first 3D printing projects that Greg initiated at Kailua Elementary School was a globe challenge from the Ultimaker Pioneer Program, in which students were able to design single sections that fit together to create a complete globe.

Globe Challenge creation
A student bracelent design, printed with supports

Although some students were stumped at the start of the project, they eventually worked as a team to develop their ideas by browsing 3D design galleries online. As the students began taking charge of their designs, Greg was pleased to see them giving and receiving feedback and encouraging one another throughout the process.

I want to create an environment where students have the tools they need to tackle the challenges they are facing.

With some students eager to come in after class for creative, collaborative projects, the Ultimaker globe challenge was a perfect first foray into the world of 3D printing and design. It’s important to Greg that he and other faculty members encourage such curiosity, and that students are in the driver’s seat when they begin working on projects.

Finishing an Ultimaker print
Finishing an Ultimaker print

The school’s faculty understands just how integral design iteration and real-world feedback can be for growth, both of which are easily accessible through 3D printing. Encouraging revisions through prototyping allows students to seek feedback from their peers, improving the overall learning process. Once a project is complete, the educators debrief and collect student feedback in order to cater to different learning styles in the future.

Making connections through 3D printing

Educators at Kailua Elementary School aim to reach students through relatability. Greg has found that connections are made on personal levels when students feel empowered by skills like 3D printing. Because they have access to Ultimaker machines, educators have seen a difference in engagement and behavior in such a collaborative environment. They also see an opportunity for these skills to benefit the local community and nearby schools, inspiring other educators in the area to get involved in the 3D printing movement.

Ultimaker printing student names
Printing student names on an Ultimaker 2+

Greg’s advice to fellow educators interested in 3D printing is to jump in and look for ways to connect with students through their interests. “Design thinking should be the core of the 3D printing process,” he says. “Iterations, prototyping, and testing become very real. These experiences will help students realize that design thinking is a path to success and understand that it is not easy, but with grit, they will succeed.”

These early, real-world experiences are so valuable because students are not afraid to fail, and teachers and students are encouraged to take risks while sharing their experiences.

He hopes that by solving authentic problems with 3D printing, students will understand how essential it is to take risks, think creatively, and work collaboratively in order to achieve skills they’ll need for the future.

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