3D printers are now available in the computer center in the College Center to students and community members who are interested in using them. Whether it’s for educational or personal use, these printers are free of charge. One of the printers was previously bought by the Pierce College Engineering Club two years ago and kept in the engineering lab where students had access. That printer is now available for use in the computer center, alongside a new 3D printer acquired for public use starting winter quarter. According to Program Manager Kristen Morgan, the newest printer was purchased through Perkins, a pro-tech grant that funds new technology projects.
This came after Pierce conducted a survey asking students what they would like to see added to the school. “We’re trying to be really proactive on getting students technology that they’re interested in,” says Morgan. For those new and wanting to learn about 3D printing, Morgan recommends using Thingiverse.com, an online program featuring previous 3D print files for certain objects. She also recommends using Tinkercad.com, another online program where users can learn the basics of 3D coding and use files on it to print more basic models.
Once a file is uploaded to the machine, the 3D printers produce the model by building it up layer by layer. Since being installed in the computer center, students and staff have used 3D printers to design and print objects like nameplates, toys, figurines and board games. Many of the objects are used for educational purposes as well, for students who may be visual learners. “You’re able to visualize and touch and move things as opposed to just reading it in a book,” says Morgan. “Those who are tactical learners may want something that’s more manipulative.” Engineering professor Alan Man found 3D printing especially useful for this school year with his engineering graphics class. The engineering class he teaches involves using computer software to draw parts of figures out on as well as hand-drawing different views of an object.
For some class exercises, Man has used the printer to print out a shape so students can get better visuals of it. The visuals from the 3D printed object give students a different perspective on the figure they wouldn’t be able to see as well online or on paper, which he claims students found helpful. In 2018, Man and several students used the older 3D printer to print a prosthetic hand for a student who lost the top of his own.
“I’m hoping to use the printers to do more stuff like that where it helps people in the community,” says Man.
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