Chess Piece Challenge

by IronOxide, published

Chess Piece Challenge by IronOxide Feb 28, 2016
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This is a great introductory project to 3D Modeling with OpenSCAD and/or TinkerCAD. Students in the 5th grade were challenged to design their own chess piece for computer class.

Limitations were that it be printable without support and, of course, fit on your standard chess board.

The benefit of the chess piece challenge is that the chess pieces on average only took 20-40 minutes to print. Students could quickly see their designs come to life and were allowed to do one reprint if they so desired.

The class then voted on their favorites. First, second, and third place winners are shown.

The chess pieces were displayed for the entire school to see along with their colorful 'placards' using,


Project: Chess Piece Challenge


Introduce students to 3D modeling and the limitations of 3D printing.


Anyone looking for a gentle introduction to 3D modeling and the world of 3D printing.

This project was done with incoming fifth grade for computer class.


Included are a few short tutorials on OpenSCAD. Students begrudgingly must create a pawn using OpenSCAD (this year I gave them the example code used to create the pawn in the tutorial).

This project assumes the students at least know of the game chess and the way the pieces look. Before starting the project I do a quick search on Thingiverse for "chess" to give them some inspiration.


Offer a preliminary OpenSCAD introduction and challenge (anywhere from a week to two weeks depending on the strength of the class and how often the class meets).

Introduce students to the process and limitations of 3D printing. A very important lesson contained here is what can and cannot be printed without support. It is important that students grasp this concept.

Students can be shown examples and quizzed on what they think can and 'can't' be printed but by far the easiest way to teach this lesson is by letting them 'fail.' Seeing the 'string cheese incident' first hand drives the point home better than verbal feedback ever could. Always reinforce that a 'fail,' so to speak, is a necessary step in the design process and is an opportunity rather than a setback.

It is also important to reinforce that even though this is a 'competition' students' can and should help each other by providing feedback and help when another student is stuck.


The students can speak for themselves:

*I have made no edits to these responses and the survey was optional.

How has having access to a 3D printer in school impacted your educational experience?

  • "Having a 3D printer in school has made learning science more engaging. Instead of just doing worksheets all of the period, we get to use the 3D printer and print objects that we have created on either OpenSCAD or Tinkercad and incorporate them in whatever we are learning or projects."
  • "It is helping us learn more about geometry and the challenges of making things we take for granted."
  • "Yes, in many ways because it gave science class a whole new concept."

Do you think hands-on projects are more effective than pad & paper learning when it comes to studying physical science?

  • "Yes, they are by far more important because we learn as we do something and that is superior. We see the results as we make them. We may fail and that is also part of learning. We may be frustrated in the beginning, but the more hand-on projects we are involved in, the better our chances to improve our learning skills and be ready for the ready for the challenges in the world."
  • "Definitely more fun and effective."
  • "Yes. I believe that when students do hands-on work, they have a greater interest in the project. The students are more likely to have a good time and learn new things when doing projects like this. I think 3D modeling is a great way to start. It can also help students to become curios about new technologies and perhaps future careers."

What is your opinion on the chess piece challenge project? Was it relevant, interesting - what did you learn from this project?

  • "I learned how to 3D model and how to use OpenSCAD for the first time in my life. At the beginning, it was difficult. But then, the more I practiced, the easier it got."
  • "This project was very interesting. I love to play chess and it made the process of the project easier. This chess piece was the first model I made with the 3D printer. I learned how to use the 3D printing programs and created my chess piece."
  • "I think it was very interesting and a good project to do first. I learned more about dimensions."

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Pretty neat designs for 5th graders.

ps - sad to see there is a 5th grader who knows who/what Deadpool is. A 5th grader has absolutely no business watching a movie like that. It seems parents no longer care about being parents sometimes.