Students Learn Geometry With 3-D Printer

📅   Fri December 02, 2016 - National Edition
By Lisa Bowers


The students in Salmi's class used the printer to make individual bricks used in the foundation of tiny houses they are building at three-quarter-inch scale. (Wee Make Change photo)
The students in Salmi's class used the printer to make individual bricks used in the foundation of tiny houses they are building at three-quarter-inch scale. (Wee Make Change photo)

Ishpeming High School students are combining geometry, technology and construction experience as a fun and useful way to apply basic math skills.

The Mining Journal reports Geometry in Construction students are using a 3-D printer that Heather Salmi built as a part of the U.P. Project SMILE grant. Project SMILE, which stands for Science & Mathematics Integrated with Literacy through Engineering, is the product of a Math Science Partnership grant from the Michigan Department of Education that the Seaborg Center at Northern Michigan University can apply for.

Salmi said the printer seemed like a logical addition to the geometry and construction curricula.

"We were creating the tiny houses and I wanted to incorporate the technology that we were so fortunate to be able to have in our classroom and in our building," Salmi said.

The printing process starts by creating a 3-D blueprint using computer-aided design software - commonly called CAD, according to a U.S. Department of Energy article. The USDE article stated that by using information from the digital file, the design is split into thin two-dimensional cross-sections so the printer knows exactly where to put material. Material extrusion works like a glue gun, the article stated. A spool of filament, which looks like a weed whipper coil, feeds through a hot extruder that melts it, then lays it down. The thin layers resemble a spider web or fishing line - and just builds it up.

The students used the printer before the meeting to print keychains in the shape of the U.P. for the board members, and printed a tiny die cube during the meeting for the members of the board to look at. The students in Salmi's class used the printer to make individual bricks used in the foundation of tiny houses they are building at three-quarter-inch scale.

Salmi said IHS's industrial education teacher Ron Grochowski has been helping the students to build the tiny houses and configure the proper dimensions for the materials. Grochowski said the printer was helpful in creating some of the materials used for the projects.

"We used the 3-D printer to create the block at a perfect three-quarter(-inch) scale," he said. "So three-quarters of an inch equals a foot, scale, and that is how the house is built also."

Grochowski said part of Geometry in Construction is learning construction measurements.

"They are learning how to calculate quantities - the amount of material, types of material and how to build a house. A tiny house has every part that a normal house would have," Grochowski said.

Summer Argall was one of the students who attended the meeting to demonstrate parts of the process and display the tiny house project, and how the printer was used.

"We had to figure out how much sheeting we needed, how much plywood," she said. "We are using the 3-D printer for the blocks and little things for our houses."

The 3-D printer was also used to create fixtures for the tiny houses. Argall said she made a couch and a table for her structure and another student created a toilet. Argall told the board she enjoys the practical applications of math the course provides.

"Geometry is a required class, but Geometry in Construction makes it more fun," Argall said.

Salmi said the next project for the students will be to create a tiny house using the blueprints for the house being rehabilitated at 320 W. Division St. in Ishpeming. The renovation project, which is the first of its kind in Michigan, broke ground in December. The Cliffs/Eagle Mine Fund via the Community Foundation of Marquette County has provided a $50,000 grant toward completion of the project. The house was given to Ishpeming Public Schools by the Marquette County Land Bank Authority. The students were given two years to convert the structure from a duplex into a single-family dwelling.