Joining Creativity and Technology in Early Education

At Southeast of Saline Elementary school in Kansas, art and technology teacher Kinsy McVay challenged the students in his 5th grade art class to design and market their own 3D printed creations. “I believe that 3D printing is a great combination of my two interests that gives students a real-world application for their creativity,” Mr. McVay said.

Last year, Mr. McVay gave his students the opportunity to make their own custom fidget spinners and market them at school. After attending workshops about student entrepreneurship, Mr. McVay decided to take this idea to the next level and teach the students to create and market an object to the world outside of school and family by making their 3D printed designs available for purchase from their very own Shapeways online store, “Trojans Tinker”.

“I think knowing that anyone could order your design is really cool because we are only in the 5th grade and they could be talking about my design all the way in Canada.” said Kelli, a student in Mr. McVay’s class who designed a keychain.

The class decided that 50% of the profits from their shop would go to their classrooms and the other 50% would go to cancer research. 

Exploring Inspiration and New Skills

The students followed tutorials and learned how to use Tinkercad to model their designs. “I feel that using Tinkercad was pretty easy. I liked that I could follow a lesson that would teach me how to do a certain thing.” said Charlotte, another student.

Mr. McVay left it up to the students to chose their final designs, as well as five materials available through Shapeways, and over the course of a few months they prototyped and refined their designs using the school’s 3D printers. The students then made posters and a video commercial to market their website and their Shapeways shop.

The Southeast of Saline students created a wide range of designs including keychains, plaques with positive messages like “Be Yourself” and small statues that include a Space Needle and a Roman Cathedral. They were inspired by their interests, friends and family, as well as causes dear to them.

“I was inspired to make my product for the kids that are getting bullied every day at school,” said Jackson, who designed a “Stop Bullying” keychain.

The Students’ Take on their Adventure into 3D Printing

The students will have a chance to examine their experience in order to provide feedback to next year’s 5th grade class. “My favorite part about 3D printing was just learning how to design things,” said Madison, who designed the Roman Cathedral. “Before we even started this project I had always thought 3D printing was cool. But then I actually had a chance to try it. I ended up picking a really hard lesson, but I still had a lot of fun.”

When asked what advice they would give to future students, many agreed that it was important to take one’s time but mainly to enjoy the process. Suttyn, who designed a cactus, said “It can be hard at times but it is a really fun thing to learn to do and getting to create whatever you want is really cool too.”

The students encourage anyone visiting their Shapeways shop to email them a quick hello so they can see how many people their shop has reached. Stop by the Trojans Tinker page to see these ambitious 5th graders’ designs!