Chris is an AP Stats teacher at one of our high schools and he knows that I have a 3D printer. He shoots me an email to find out if I can help him improve a chi-squared test (for fairness) lesson he's about to do with his students, using dice that they create. Come to find out, he's interested in having the students take a risk, knowing that this is a risk for him as well. His original idea was to have the kids design an irregular die using the Chromebooks and send me the files to print.
Nah, let's have some fun with this.
This was about to get real.
To prepare the lesson, Chris showed his students the work from years prior. You know, the clay-molded dice, the glued cardboard dice, and even the one made from welded steel. Cool, but not COOOOOOOOOL.
This year, students were given a Chromebook for their group, then guided to tinkercad.com to explore. While some may shy away from Tinkercad because "it's for little kids," know that these AP Stats students dove right in and were able to really explore the design of an n-sided die that would fit in a hair gel container.
- What the...?
- Bro, you gotta see this!
- Hey, ummm, how is this printing?
- No way. No. Way.
- So if I wanted to print a car, could I? I mean, this thing can print ANYTHING, can't it?
The next day, we got to show them their products. The dice were a mix of stellar productions and epic failures, but it was all a good learning experience. After all, the "thing" they created on a computer was now in their hands. WOW.
"It was surprising to see how interested students are in 3D printing; I didn't realize my students would love it as much as they did. My campus fame increased rapidly! Word spread around school. Soon I had kids I'd never met before entering my class to see the printer and ask questions about how it works and what we were using it for. Kids were genuinely intrigued. What is it about 3D printing that is so intriguing to students?
How can we ride that wave to new learning?
Because of this spark I saw in students, I'm now thinking about how I can make my dice project better for next year. Here is a link to the assignment I gave out. I would love any help with developing my project and possibly adding a rubric."
True to form, the weird dice gave weird results. The exorbitantly bad dice were redesigned and printed again. The small dice were scaled up. The students were given a chance to iterate. We had so much fun making the first set that we fed the printer with pink filament and gave the kids an extra.
Seven days, 38 students, one 3D printer, and a ton of curiosity was all it took to prepare a mathematical feast these kids will be talking about for a long time after the printer has left the campus.
More importantly, my hope is that this group of students has become empowered to try something new. I'm not a subscriber to the FAIL (First Attempt In Learning) model that floats around the Internet on a daily basis. No, these kids had first, second, third, and fourth attempts, and the technology gave them the safety net of being wrong as a good thing. It was awesome to listen to the conversations change as the groups knew they could continue to iterate, almost as if they were in an engineering firm as they prepped for a big contract they were about to bid. Yeah, the application of their learning is going to stick around.