Updated on: 3/22/14
The 3D printer can be a terrific tool in STEM / STEAM classrooms. For most teachers they are begging for ways to have students easily create models or projects without needing knowledge of complicated CAD tools. For some, printing precomposed models from Thingiverse or the like just isn’t the level of engagement they are looking for. Thankfully, the field of options is growing. I’ll introduce you to a few iPad apps that are easy enough for Elementary students to use. The final result of each app is a model you can print from your classroom 3D printer.
Blockify – for iOS – Free (in-app purchases available but not required)
Our first app should immediately be familiar with any student that has played with legos or played Minecraft. The concept is to build models one block at a time. Easily model castles, pyramids, boats, and other blocky items. With good planning teachers can teach any number of topics. Imagine a history lesson on the middle ages where student groups design their own mini castle. Or multiple student groups could collaborate so that each group builds a section of a larger castle that must fit together. Additionally, students could paint the models for further teaching opportunities.
Blockify has a simple interface of just touching where you want the blocks to go. The stone and wood block themes are free with other themes available via in-app purchase. Once a model is complete the students can email the model to the teacher for printing. Sadly, there isn’t a premium version of the app with all the themes that would work better with Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for education. Thankfully, the free app is still great and well worth the evaluation.
Tinkerplay – for iOS – Free
The second app allows students to create a wild variety of action figures. Once the action figure is designed the app creates a build file. It will tell you the amount of filament that will be used and the amount of time it will take to print. Teachers can easily retrieve the build files using a web browser and then print.
Projects could include students planning and building their action figures then writing a story that includes their character. As long as all the parts are printed at the same scale, each student’s parts could be interchangeable with other students thus creating more possibilities.
Morphi – for iOS – Free (in-app purchases available but not required)
Finally the Morphi allows for the greatest amount of freedom and power in creating models. Students can use basic shapes like cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders, and more to construct the model they desire. Additional shapes are available via in app purchase. Sadly, there isn’t a premium version of the app with all the shapes that would work better with Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for education. Thankfully you can work around this limit for the most part.
Morphi is more advanced the the previous two apps because it’s functions are more like a traditional 3D modeling software. That being said, if students are looking for that full design experience from their iPads, it’s a great app for them.
More curriculum ideas for 3D printing can be found many places on the web. SPO Learning Lab is one such place.
These three apps are great examples of simplifying the 3D printing process. I’d love to hear of other apps and tools you’ve discovered that brings 3D printing into the classroom.