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FDA students deck the halls in 3D

Homemade ornaments on Christmas trees will look a little different this year for Fort Dale Academy students. Thanks to a 3D printer and a new realm of imagination, students in grades 1st-6th grades created unique ornaments, adding a new spin to decking the halls.

Director of Instructional Technology Jan Lowery said, “Just like real snowflakes, everyone’s ornament is unique.”

Launching a new project with the students this year, Lowery and Elementary Computer teacher Lauren Locklear worked together to challenge the students in a new exciting way. Using the MakerBot Replicator 3D printer, students are able to design the ornaments on Tinkercad, a free easy-to-use app for 3D design.

First introduced 4 years ago, students began creating 3D masterpieces for the state technology fair. The only inconvenience was printing the projects, and most were sent off campus for printing taking a few weeks for some projects.

Now, all projects can be printed on the two printers located at the school. Lowery explained, “We’ve been 3D printing for 4 years. The kids that wanted to do a project for their technology projects would do it and send it off. Last year we decided to get our own 3D printers.” From a small house replica to a Harry Potter themed fidget spinner, students have been placing at state since the beginning and enjoying the new creations. Now with the printers being located on campus, more projects like these can be assigned.

“It does take a few hours to print, but the good thing is I can check the printer and see what is printing on my phone anywhere on campus,” said Lowery.

Because of the positive response from students and the new printers, Lowery and Locklear decided to introduce the technology to the younger grades.

“We decided we wanted a project to give to our younger kids to have everyone exposed. The first grade did a star and they had to attach the ring to make it an ornament. The older the grade, the more difficult the projects got. All the way up to the sixth grade, who completely designed their own ornaments,” said Lowery.

Locklear was excited and unsure of how the students would respond.

“They have done really well; most of them have been so excited about it that they want to keep doing more. They don’t want to stop with just one,” said Locklear.

Lowery emphasized the benefit that comes from teaching an advanced technology to students at this early age. “What I am excited about is introducing it to them here, knowing all the things we can build on once they have been exposed,” said Lowery.

With this new technology, similar projects are on the horizon.

Locklear concluded, “This is such an easy program that Jan found. It is really neat, and it has been fun. I am excited to see the ornaments done. Once we get these printed, we probably will keep doing projects like this.”