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The library was quiet except for a slight hum. Within seconds the hum was interrupted as chatter filled the room with excitement from the first grade class as they gathered around Elkhorn Valley’s newest additions.
Each student had a unique question, but they all shared the same fascination as they watched the machine create figures like nothing they had ever seen before.
Half-confused, half curious, one student asked the question that was clearly burning in everyone’s mind. “What is that thing?”
The “that thing” happened to be the first 3D printers in an Antelope County school.
Since their arrival, the Elkhorn Valley library has experienced as much buzz as it has hums with the excitement that Tracy Larson was hoping for when she sent in the school’s grant application.
“It's really fun to see everyday what new things we discover with it. Because that is part of the excitement of receiving this grant, and now having it within our building. It's now at our fingertips all of the time so we can keep learning and growing,” said Larson, Elkhorn Valley’s media specialist.
Last winter, Larson received an email which sparked her interest to apply for the grant awarded by General Electric (GE), which included two 3D printers. Elkhorn Valley was 1 of 400 schools in the nation to receive the grant.
Elkhorn Valley received a Polar 3D Printer, an XYZprinting Printer, Polar 3D’s STEAMtrax curriculum with a 2 year license, 6 rolls of filament for each printer and the STEAMtrax module kit “Tinkering with Turbines.”
“I really think 3D printers have become huge within the workforces, so I think it is great for our kids to be graduating here with some experience with the design elements of that,” Larson said. “And I just think with our gifted program, our shop class, our future ag, and our science programs; I think we can really add a lot of real-life experience for our kids to be able to use in the future.”
Since setting up the new technology, Larson has began experimenting to discover the potential of both printers. She began by testing the intricacy with a replica of the eiffel tower.
Larson was surprised with the details; however, she found that curvature of the tower as well as the details caused the design to be more fragile. To solve this problem, she then developed a thicker scaled tail which proved to be just as intricate but a little more sturdy.
Next, Larson decided to take a more complex route when developing the marble maze run. This print began early on in the school day which gave students the opportunity to watch the printer at work. After 19 long hours and the four separate pieces were assembled, the maze was finally finished.
Larson said students and staff have taken the bull by the horns to learn more about the new printers and how they can be implemented in the school. To receive training, GE has provided links to youtube videos for anyone who is interested in putting in personal time to learn how to design and print.
“They made it really easy to access all of the training. You didn’t have to sit down at one time and attend a webinar,” she said. “You can do it on your own time with what fits your schedule. So, that’s really nice.”
As of now, three teachers have been officially trained and are planning to train more teachers in the future once more interest strikes in the other classrooms. But, there is no doubt that the Elkhorn Valley students are excited for the new programs. Larson explained how many high school students have taken the time to help setup the printers, troubleshoot, and experiment.
“I am really excited to see what the kids design on their own. We had some trouble getting them set up initially, and our high school kids in study hall were so excited about getting these going that they were trying to troubleshoot along side our tech coordinator,” she said. “Some of them actually found solutions on how to get these set up correctly for us. So, it's just really fun to see the problem solving in these kids coming out. And how much more they know than what the adults do.”