For the past three summers, I’ve been offering a summer camp for kids who want to learn 3D modeling and how to use 3D printers.
The 3D printers are hugely popular, but I’ve found that the kids (ages 8-12) are typically a bit let down when it comes to the quality of their 3D models. They see 3D models online — T-Rex, X-Wing fighter, sports cars, and more — and they are disappointed that their initial designs are not anywhere near the quality of the work done by professionals.
As adults, we understand that mastery requires practice, and while many of my students realize they have to put in the time to really learn the skills necessary to duplicate these types of creations… not all do. For this reason, I’m always on the lookout for resources that can help kids learn FASTER and get the results they expect.
During my camps, I use Tinkercad. It’s a free online CAD tool from Autodesk that is simple enough for kids to use but powerful enough to do some truly incredible modeling. Tinkercad has a limited toolset compared to other 3D modeling tools such as Fusion 360 and AutoCAD… this keeps it from overwhelming young users but but it also makes it extremely easy to track the skills that kids are learning. If kids can grab the basics of object manipulation, merging, resizing, rotation, and more… these skills will transfer to any CAD tool they choose for advanced work.
Full disclosure — DK asked me to work with them to create a book of 3D printable projects for kids. I was happy to help, but also I wanted to make certain that while the projects were fun, the projects would push the reader to develop skills and understandings of 3D modeling concepts. I wanted projects that would help kids better grasp measurements, degrees, and three-dimensional visualization.
If you’re a camp instructor or parent who is looking for something to help with learning 3D modeling, you’re going to want to check out DK’s new book, 3D Printing Projects.
I was the Tech Consultant for the book, so I may be a bit biased, but I believe that DK has knocked it out of the park with this book. The book is printed in full-color, with numbered steps to follow so there’s no confusion about the order in which a project is made. There are 14 projects in all that follow an introduction to 3D printing and 3D printing concepts such as slicing, merging, and more.
Every project provides exact dimensions so users can recreate the exact project they see in the book. Sometimes the project will state that the user can pick the size, but a suggested size is always provided. Objects (such as cubes, pyramids, etc) are always shown in different colors to make it easier to distinguish the various items being dragged onto the desktop and merged or resized or rotated. Again, the simple step boxes are a perfect way to lead young modelers through the creation of some amazing looking designs without confusion.
I am hopeful that DK will continue to do more books like this one. Kids often struggle (as do adults) with coming up with ideas. And when they do have a good idea, they often lack the knowledge for how to translate it from their mind’s eye to the screen. The 14 projects in this book will have them shrinking and growing and rotating and merging and more… and before they know it, they’ll have the skills they need to make more advanced models.
3D Printing Projects is available now.