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Laser Engraver & 3D Printers

Everyone knows that technology has an increasingly prominent role in today’s society.  District 95 students are gaining exposure to interesting and powerful technology during their school day, preparing them for the highly technical work force they will soon enter.

Lake Zurich High School students enrolled in Industrial Technology classes are working with technology that is typically used in college engineering courses.  Former students contacted teachers Eric Prostka and John Keyzer, telling them that much of their college introductory engineering coursework had already been covered in their Industrial Tech classes at LZHS. Students in Computer Aided Design (CAD) classes such as Drafting Technology, Architecture, and Engineering Drafting are learning to design projects with a CAD program called Autodesk Inventor Pro.  Through the use of a laser engraver the students have the ability to produce their design quickly and inexpensively.  One such example is the 3D models of dinosaurs that students design and construct using the CAD software and the two dimensional laser engraver.  The laser engraver cuts the pieces precisely and quickly.

Engineering Drafting students will use both the laser engraver and the high school’s high end 3D printer to design and construct a class project designed to sort three different sizes of ball bearings without mechanisms, or basically using gravity.  In this project the students use the laser engraver to cut the 2D pieces and they use the 3D printer – which is more sophisticated but also much slower – to print the ramps which help guide the bearings.  The 3D printer takes the CAD blueprint and slices it into layers to print.  It’s ideal for creating designs which need ergonomic testing. For example, if you were designing a hand held tool you would want to produce a model of your design to see if it fit well in your hand, to see if it was comfortable, etc. For practice, students designed and printed a game controller.

Enrollment in the Advanced Robots class for the 2014-15 school year has tripled.  Eric Hamilton, Assistant Principal for Curriculum & Instruction at LZHS, thinks that enrollment surge is a direct result of the technology that allows students to design and produce items that they can hold, touch, and use.  The technology brings the curriculum to life.  Both the laser engraver and the 3D printer at the high school were funded by grants.

Middle School North is also sporting a new 3D printer thanks to a grant largely funded by a district parent.  Art teacher Jacqueline Bevan is the resident expert after spending a considerable amount of time learning how to use the technology.  She and her colleagues are still working to find an appropriate curricular use for the technology.  One possibility that she is considering for next year is printing bracelets and having students create designs on them.  The bracelets are clear when printed, cost about three cents apiece, and can be colored or decorated.  All of the students are being exposed to the technology when they come into her room.  Even if they are not working directly on a project involving the printer they are exposed to the technology and can begin to understand the possibilities.  It seems likely that creative minds will find a use.  Just recently the MSN drama students needed a flute for the spring musical.  Bevan found a design… and printed one up!


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