Students and Teachers Enjoy 3D Printing at BVS

Rod Batschelet is the Technology Specialist at Benson Village School in Vermont. In his role, Batschelet instructs teachers how to integrate new technology, such as 3D printing, into the classroom. He also has an Associates Degree in graphic arts, and a certification in technology from Champlain College.

Introducing 3D Printing at Benson Village School

Afinia 3D printer at BVSBenson Village welcomed the Afinia 3D printer into their school system three years ago. “After I had talked about 3D printing for some time, our district technology manager suggested we move forward with the idea,” says Batschelet. “I did plenty of research to find what I thought would be the perfect fit. Over and over, I saw the Afinia praised as the easiest to use out-of-the-box, easiest to repair on-the-fly, and reliable. So that’s what we chose, and I haven’t looked back!”

3D Printing for Preschool Through 8th Grade

Afinia 3D-printed toy design
A preschool student’s final 3D print, designed in ThingMaker.

Age is just a number at Benson Village School, where 3D printing is used for preschool through 8th grade. “For our youngest students, we use the ThingMaker app to model parts and assemble them into something like an action figure or jewelry. Then we go through the printing process,” explains Batschelet. Once the items are printed, the preschoolers get to paint their designs for additional personalized flair.

“As students move up in grade level, they begin using different programs. From Kindergarten through 3rd grade, for example, students use SculptGL and Publisher Design. Then, our older student groups really focus on tying the 3D printing into the curriculum,” Batschelet explains, adding, “One of the projects our 5th graders worked on was 3D printing scrimshaw and soapstone carvings when they studied the Inuits.”

Automated tray system, designed and printed by an 8th grade BVS student.
Automated tray system, designed and printed by an 8th grade BVS student.

“For the 8th graders, 3D printing largely focuses on prototyping and designs for engineering. One student recently designed an automated tray system,” he says.

“Several students, who started using the 3D printer when they were in 5th grade (they are now in 8th), are constantly looking to get print time to do their own projects. We make the printer available both before and after school for them.”

Iron Man Mask Parts
One BVS student has decided to 3D print a full-size Iron Man helmet.

Thinking Outside the Box

“Since we’ve had the printer for several years, we are finding new and exciting ways to put it to use. This year, we printed some virtual reality glasses. The students loved it! The only problem is we didn’t have enough smartphones to go around!” tells Batschelet, who says he’d like to do more with virtual reality this year.

Batschelet has always encouraged the students and teachers to try new things, like making the yearbook in 3D (it came with 3D glasses) or using augmented reality so you can scan something on the yearbook page and watch a video about the school year. “We’re exploring a lot of things,” he says, “and a lot of that credit needs to go to the teachers, who have been so willing to try it all!”

Taking Work Home

Zebra art and 3D print
Batschelet uses the Afinia 3D Printer to re-create some of his 2D fine art as sculpture. He prints multiple parts and combines them for a larger end product.

Apparently Batschelet doesn’t get his fill of 3D printing during the workday, because he purchased his own Afinia 3D printer shortly after introducing the one at school. “I use mine at home, printing all sorts of different things. Using the equipment helps me to teach it,” he says.

“I was an illustrator for 15 years for a promotional products company, then did freelance work, and was a part of the Brandon Artist Guild,” says Batschelet. “I’ve taught a number of art workshops, including airbrush painting, which is a process I use to paint my 3D prints. Many of my workshops show how to take your 3D print to the next level with finishing techniques. In real world, you want to make your prototype look as realistic as possible. Having an artistic background gives me the ability to do that sort of thing,” admits Batschelet.

A Few of His Favorite Things

Batschelet is definitely what we like to term an “Afiniac.” His affinity for the machine was evident when we asked him how we could improve the printer. “I can’t think of anything to improve,” he says. “I like that it’s portable: I can pick it up and take it with me to a demonstration or workshop… and it rarely has to be re-calibrated.”

“Some people initially questioned me about the build size, saying ‘well, that might be fine for small pieces, but what practical use is it?’ I explain them (and to students) that as long as they can break something down into basic components and assemble it, size is no limitation.”

3D-printed soundwave jewelry
Batschelet created jewelry for his wife by recording his words “I love you,” and transforming the waveform into a 3D model, painting the 3D print for a professional finish.

Batschelet isn’t shy in sharing the good word. “I refer it to everyone I know,” he says. “Another school in my district, and two in another district, also have the Afinia brand. One of the schools has a number of different 3D printers, but every time they see me they tell me ‘that little Afinia keeps going and going.’ They are also very happy with it!”

Simple Support and Repair

“Since we’ve had the 3D printer for several years, I have had to do minor repair/maintenance… it’s extremely simple, and usually only takes a few minutes.”

“I reached out to support just once when the heating element died. We just sent them a photo and they sent us a part immediately. It was so easy.”

The Impact of 3D Printing on Student Learning

Students were challenged to design a completely new product. This is a BVS student's prototype of a new type of ice skimmer for ice fishing.
A student who was challenged to design a completely new product designed this new type of ice skimmer prototype.

“One of the things that’s great about 3D printing is how it makes students think in terms of the process of assembling a model: they need to have an idea of the project they want, and then realize printing in a single piece is unlikely. It encourages them to break it into pieces and build from that, and truly understand how something works, or is built. You have to break it down into basic shapes.”

“3D printing has also encouraged sequential learning and computational learning, with all of the designing that’s done.”

Interested in incorporating 3D printing into your classroom? Learn more about Afinia’s 3D printers and resources for education.