3-D Printing arrives at Memorial school

Published: February 2, 2016

By Mark Dionne Town Times

Students at Memorial Middle School have started designing and creating objects using 3-D printers that technology teacher Tina Hurlbert hopes will encourage engineering and problem-solving and generate excitement among students, particularly girls.

One printer arrived in December, the other two in January. “They’ve been cranking since then,” Hurlbert said. 3-D printers use a design on an x, y, and z axis to create a physical object from a plastic filament. “It looks a lot like weed whacker wire,” Hurlbert said of the material.

Students in the tech ed. class use a computer program to design their objects, but have to do so carefully. Because the printer works from the bottom up, elements at the upper level of the object have to be supported, which is one of the main design considerations.

Hurlbert said, “It’s been a nice tie in with the math curriculum ... translating from the computer screen to actual real life is pretty incredible.” Students have made candy molds, key chains, and rings that – if they get the measurements right – they can wear. One student used Google Earth and the printer to create a 3-D model of Memorial school.

Printing time varies according to complexity. The longest project so far took six hours to print.

Hurlbert said, “3-D printing itself is in an exciting phase of its development. Costs have dropped, the technology has become more accessible to students and in District 13, we’re talking about an increased focus on the ‘STEAM skills’ – science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.”

STEAM education, sometimes called STEM when the art is dropped, places an emphasis on real world applications and incorporates engineering and design into classes. STEM, according to Hurlbert, has “been an undercurrent in education for several years now and we’re moving towards that as a district.”

Hulbert’s goal with the printers is to have each child create an item and bring it home. “The kids are out-of-their-minds excited,” Hurlbert said. The process, and the hands-on active engagement, Hurlbert hopes, will help encourage young girls to engage in technology, science, and math.

That emphasis helped Hurlbert earn a grant from The Petit Family Foundation for two of the printers.

According to The Petit Family Foundation, “The foundation’s funds are given to foster the education of young people, especially women in the sciences; to improve the lives of those affected by chronic illnesses; and to support efforts to protect and help those affected by violence.”

Hurlbert felt that her goals matched up with the District 13 mission and the Petit Family Foundation’s focus. Hurlbert attended a grant announcement and met William Petit, his family, and foundation members, an experience she describes as moving and humbling.

The other printer was covered by donations through, which matches donors and foundations with causes. The Robo R1 Plus printers, with a price tag of about $800, were chosen by cost and reputation.

In the future, Hurlbert expects to look into ways a 3-D printer can change the world or make the world better for someone. She wants students to work in groups and to consider objects that can be designed to improve people’s lives. She also hopes to incorporate 3-D design with programming and robotics.

3-D printers are making their way into District 13. Coginchaug Regional High School and Korn Elementary School have them, and Strong Middle School is in the process of getting one. Hurlbert said, “My reasons [in getting the printers] were to promote problem-solving, to design and create products, to use hands-on applications, taking what we’re doing in District 13 and at Memorial to the next level.”