New 3D Design and Fabrication class at OHS

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New 3D Design and Fabrication class at OHS
A student works with his teacher in a 3D Design and Fabrication class. It’s hard to tell at first whether the students in the shop are playing or working during Olympia High School’s 3D Design and Fabrication class. When asked, most would say it’s a mixture of both. This is the first year students at OHS have been offered the class, which is part of the Career and Technical Education program.

Recently in class, students were working with a variety of materials and machines to create toys, hats and miniature chairs. Students begin their projects using OnShape computer aided design software before moving into the manufacturing process, where they use 3D printing, laser cutting or CNC milling. They also get hands-on time with molding and mold making.

Eleventh grader Ashley Harp was making a small cat figurine. She had to carefully sand the toy after it came from the 3D printer to smooth out any excess material or defects. The cat was one of many toys the students were making to sell for $1 in a gumball machine in the school cafeteria.

Harp would say that the class is more play than work. “I was pleasantly surprised. This class is awesome,” she said. “After you get past the tutorial stuff it’s really nice to just have your freedom to make things.”

The students are given assignments to practice various skills and use different equipment. But as for what they will create, that’s mostly up to them. Their individuality shows in projects such as the foam hat project, where creations varied from an old-fashioned plumber’s cap to a set of horns. For a recent project using the 3D printer, students were assigned to research and then create a miniature model of a historical chair.

“It’s more of a creative outlet than a lot of the STEM classes are,” said 12th grader Blake Willepp.

Students are gaining experience that will help them in a variety of future career fields. Some students said they wanted to work in engineering, manufacturing or robotics. One student said she hoped the skills she learned would help her in a future career as a theater set designer.

That’s part of the beauty of the 3D Design and Fabrication class. Students are learning skills that will help them in pretty much any future path they choose, OHS Principal Matt Grant said.

“It promotes creativity and ingenuity because students can craft something from their imagination or create something that hasn't been done before.” Grant said. “This class presents so many relevant opportunities to get a taste of where the manufacturing world is going. It allows a hands-on experience for students who might have interest and talent in the STEM field. The skills will be transferable to other disciplines and jobs in the future.”

There’s been a boom of interest in STEM and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at OHS since the new class began, Grant said. “In the past year, this course has generated lots of enthusiasm for learning in the CTE field. In one year, the interest for this class has nearly doubled. We are excited to see what other opportunities this course will bring.”

CTE teacher Andrew Woodbridge said future plans for this class include making portfolios of student work, learning to set up an online shop to sell handmade goods, and inviting monthly visitors including artists, technicians, museum staff and more. There are also plans to implement work-based learning opportunities to allow students access to internships and job shadowing.