Students Use 3-D Printers in Project Empower

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The goal for the Technology Resources’ maker lab is for students to use technology to reflect the image of God, who made all things. Since their installation three years ago, three 3-D printers have encouraged BJU students’ creativity. Introducing this technology to students was important to us because many career fields use 3-D printing. For that reason, we in Technology Resources decided to use 3-D printing as a service learning opportunity.

The Project

This past fall semester, staff member Hannah Deal created a program called Project Empower. The goal of the project was to help the community while developing students’ understanding of the real-life application of innovative technology. Entrepreneurship and special education students collaboratively designed and 3-D printed aids for individuals with disabilities in community schools, while also earning academic credit.

The Process

Beginning in September and ending mid-November, both classes visited Hidden Treasure and Washington Center schools to assess students’ needs. Each class then brainstormed, researched, designed, printed, tested and refined their ideas. Students used an easy-to-use 3-D modeling website, tinkercad.com, to create a tool that specifically met the requirements of their targeted students while also applying to broader special needs situations.

Utensil Holder

The entrepreneurship class (with the guidance of their teacher, Dr. Adele Dunn) created a holder for students who can’t grip a writing utensil normally. After numerous revisions in their weekly meetings, the team finally settled on a ball-like holder that can hold two writing devices, one the size of a highlighter and one the size of a pencil. The item was tested by students and a friend at BJU with cerebral palsy. When the project was complete, the group presented a business plan and their final product to several business professors.

Reading Aid

The special education class created a tool that would help students read. The class met weekly and followed the same design process as the entrepreneurship class. They created a paper holder intended to improve student reading. The holder includes a slider that helps students focus on only part of a worksheet at a time.

The Results

At the end of the project, both objects were given to Hidden Treasure and Washington Center for use by their special needs students. Project Empower participants also received a booklet documenting the semester’s work to include with their résumés.

In the future, Technology Resources plans to expand Project Empower to include more university classes and to increase community outreach. Plus, we plan to offer an online, 3-D certification course in the fall of 2018 for anyone who wants to learn how to use the 3-D printers on their own.

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Hannah Diggs is the instructional technology specialist for BJU’s Technology Resources, working with four 3-D printers, an augmented reality headset (the Microsoft HoloLens), and the 360 video camera.