Heartland schools investing in more 3D printers

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Our education system continues to evolve with technology has gone from just using books and pencils to now having computers and even 3D printers.

Cape Girardeau Public Schools recently got it's fifth 3D printer, and the machines are becoming more prevalent in classrooms and workplaces across America.

"In the next 10-years you're going to see 3D printers become just like a toaster," said Jamie Russell, the technology instructional specialist with the local school district.

"The more uses we have for it and the better they become, and the cheaper they become because they are very, very cheap now, it's just going to become more prevalent," he added.

Breijon Clemons, a 4th grader at Franklin Elementary School, said his class couldn't keep their eyes off the school's 3D printer when they got to see it in use.

"We was all huddled around it and everybody in our group was like that is cool," Clemons said. "It starts in this one spot and it just goes around and starts building up, building up, building up. We all was happy about it."

The process starts on a 3D modeling program, then the dimensions are sent to the 3D printer which uses it's extruder to layer plastic in the shape from the ground up.

Clemons' class recently made an orange trophy for their school's new principal and he said they got to put their own spin on it.

"We put 'Most Hip Principal Ever' on there because she is the most hip principal in the world basically," Clemons said. "It was fun, and I made some of the ideas too like to put 'To Legit to Quit' on it. She always says that. It's her theme song."

4th-grade teacher Whitney Carter said 3D printer project engage reluctant learners and are tools to help students learn problem-solving skills, how to research and make sturdy designs.

"Sometimes it just gets a kid pumped," Carter said. "We have a lot of problem-based learning going on not just in our school but all districts around. If your chairs are making to much noise you can make stoppers to put on the bottom of it. A real-life problem that the kids are experiencing and letting them develop a way to solve it."

Older students at Cape's Career and Technical Center also use a similar process with the two 3D printers there and have created things like a Rubik's Cube and replacement parts for machines.

Russell said the technology is even advancing to house building and manufacturing metal parts.

"3D printing is really limited to what we can come up with," Russell said. "Whether it's furniture or whether it's food. There is a chocolate 3D printer out there that somebody is working on. I think we're going to see is manufacturers, instead of mailing parts to you they can actually send you the model of it and you can 3D print that at your house. That could be for something new or even to fix something."

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