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Englewood Elementary School, Sarasota, Florida

3D Printing and Design for Tomorrow’s Innovative Leaders
STARTING YOUNG—At Englewood Elementary, teachers work on 3D design and printing with students as young as first-graders.
STARTING YOUNG—At Englewood Elementary, teachers work on 3D design and printing with students as young as first-graders.
Sarasota County Schools
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Starting with a single Makerbot 3D printer in 2014, the maker movement program at Englewood Elementary School in Sarasota County Schools has been sparking creativity while addressing rigor.

The goal is to provide K5 students with authentic experiences using innovative tools to help them become tomorrow’s thinkers, designers and confident technicians.

Englewood created a student leadership group that set up a 3D printing “business” geared toward brainstorming, designing, prototyping and printing products requested by homeroom classes and grade-level teams.

Students created class sets of math manipulatives, like tangrams that when assembled count in tens or thousands, for example, to help K1 students better grasp math concepts.

They designed and 3D-printed awards, such as medals, for school programs, principal meetings and science fairs. They also created a race boat that competed in the Englewood WaterFest World Championships, a worldwide event of racing all kinds of boats.

And a fifth-grader designed and printed a cell phone charger, which won third place in a competition against college and high school students.

At the same time, the maker movement has improved parent involvement since families can build their own designs or prototypes during weekly Thursday Family Reading Nights.

Englewood’s science lab teacher has partnered with LiteWorld, formerly known as the Englewood Incubation Center, to create and design summer and science lab curricula. Science Lab is where students receive hands-on lab instruction to supplement a science lesson with their homeroom teacher.

“We immediately had a backlog of orders from our teachers for students to design and print, and we recommend starting with more than one printer,” says principal Mark Grossenbacher.

For schools looking to replicate the program, Grossenbacher suggests gaining student interest by allowing them to make toys first. Also, start younger students on the graphic products, which exposes them to the metric system before they learn it in other classes.

And of course, get teacher acceptance; having instructors who understand that 3D-printing design is open-ended, collaborative and mistake-prone will establish a school culture that allows for future improvements.

“Our goal is to put technology ideas and innovative practices in the hands and minds of our children to prepare them not for the jobs that exist today but also for the jobs that will exist in the future,” Grossenbacher says.