One would think that NASA, an agency that has used or is exploring the use of 3D printers for everything from mission components to food, would know everything there is to know about 3D printing technology.
What NASA wants more expertise on, however, is how to convey information about advanced technologies to teachers and students.
That’s what brought Troy Cline from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt to the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center in Federal Hill.
“I have people at NASA headquarters waiting to talk to me when I get back from this,” said Cline, who works on education and public outreach for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which launches next year. “I hope they send some more people to one of these workshops.”
The four-day workshop was the foundation’s first for educators under an outreach program announced in June at the White House Maker Faire. This is the first time the Digital Harbor Foundation has designed specific courses for technology instructors, executive director Andrew Coy said. Previous efforts focused more broadly on educational technology until those courses were spun off into the startup An Estuary.
3D printing was high atop a list of “things we know that are high interest,” Coy said. The next workshop, in January, will focus on classroom maker spaces.
The 14 educators, who hailed from institutions like NASA but also public and private schools as far away as Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, paid $495 (or $1,145 to get a 3D printer with registration) for the four-day program. The educators learned the ins and outs of the hardware and software (like Tinkercad and OpenSCAD) for designing 3D-printed objects, including accessories like spools and handles for the 3D printer itself.
Hamilton Elementary/Middle School sixth-grade math teacher Chris Waller said he’s sent his own children to the foundation’s Maker Camp. He said he is Hamilton’s “unofficial tech guy,” but came to the workshop with little familiarity with 3D printing.
“There’s a lot that they’re telling us that if we bought the printers on our own, we would struggle,” he said. “This is an awesome opportunity for our kids.”
NASA’s Cline said the workshop will help him and the space agency’s personnel more effectively convey the basics of 3D printing to students.
“I knew a lot about it,” Cline said. “I had been watching people do it and use it, but I didn’t have a 3D printer.”
He certainly does now.