Chicago Public Schools has a lot of challenges ahead for this coming school year. We definitely have one thing covered. We are overloaded with students who wish to investigate the multitude of design, engineering, and artistic possibilities of 3D printing. I also do not lack in having a lot of great things to say about these students. They are driven, dedicated young men and women. They have already designed homes using CAD software, explored virtual 3D models of biochemical processes at the molecular level. They have used artificial life simulators to build organisms in a virtual environment, right down to the genome. They have built circuits, involving breadboards, resistors, capacitors, audio speakers, Arduino controllers, and read dozens of schematics. They can build so many things, from laser mazes to rockets to towers of spaghetti.
I would hate to leave any reader with the thought that these students were just master engineers and artists. They are leaders, teaching their fellow students how to do the same things they learned to do. They recruit their own classes to add to their ranks, and create a powerful body of furiously inquisitive individuals, who wear the title of "nerd" or "geek" with pride. They go to Argonne National Laboratories to listen to professional scientists on their home turf (That group was all girls, all minority, I'd like to add, mostly because we need more of them in everything STEAM). They were interviewed on Telemundo for their international news magazine (http://tlmdo.co/1e2qz2U, I'm the guy in the white polo). They, most of all, had fun learning about science. At Lincoln Park High School, we have students in our International Baccalaureate program, our Magnet Fine Arts students, our double honors students, our AP students, and a whole slew of kids for whom school has been only a litany of success. None of my kids are like that. Over half said that they did not even like science before I mentioned it to them (or required them to try it as an assignment). Nine have learning or emotional disabilities. A third had never been involved in an extracurricular activity. Five were failing their current math and science classes. Yet, they found something so engaging about this program that all promised to return again to help, except our fine seniors. Two will be studying nursing, and one forensic science. Last year I founded, through my administration's generosity, a FUSE studio at my school. FUSE is a project developed by Northwestern University to provide engaging, interest-driven, hands-on STEAM activities for students of all backgrounds and levels, with a particular focus on those students who have not been interested in science in the classroom, or may not be interested in the classroom at all. After an a phase I and II run of approximately 200 students, over 30 advanced to become assistant facilitators, giving up a collective 1100 hours of time to help themselves and others explore their interests in STEAM. They even were able to recruit another teacher, a dedicated math teacher, to become our new co-facilitator. We are ready to go to phase III, which is to increase the student population served to 1500, targeting the students who, like they once did, feel that science is not something they can be successful at. Every facilitator says that the biggest selling point to the other students is 3D printing. It would be the height of foolishness to ignore their sage advice. However, we simply do not have the funding. Here is what we do have: We have ten dedicated laptops, thirty chromebooks, and ten desktops currently in our studio, with full in-house administrative access for installing new software. We also have laser paper printers, document cameras, LCD projectors, and iPads available upon request. We have a curriculum for utilizing 3D printing in molecular modelling and biotechnological simulations from Milwaukee School of Engineering's Center for Biomolecular Modeling. We have the support of Northwestern University in providing both direct assistance and lesson ideas for using 3D printing both in our studio and in the other classrooms. We have two tech-savvy teachers wiling to devote over 3000 hours each to getting 1500 kids to add at least a single STEAM challenge to their quarter. We have 30 students who are hungry to incorporate the latest technology into their school, and into their own educational experience.
We want to make more than just keychains and models of our heads, though that is going to be great. We want to build hands, robots, models of proteins, and things that neither adult could think of! We have all that we need, except the printer. Help us be the next headline. Help us show that what Chicago students, and Chicago schools, already HAS is newsworthy.
Congratulations on your finalist status! It seems you have a terrific plan for incorporating a 3D printer into your already existing programs.