I have searching for a good combination of apps and resources to make adding elements of 3D design and modeling both meaningful and easily accessible for everyone. I think I have found just the set of tools to make it possible no matter if you’re teaching elementary, middle, or high school.
The first tool, I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention is 123D Make. This is a free product from Autodesk available on iPhone, iPad, PC, and Mac. The iOS version is a great introduction to the platform that allows students to start by drawing a simple 2D profile which the app rotates around an axis to create a 3D solid of revolution. The resulting 3D figure can be viewed as either a solid “stacked” format or a more open “radial” format. At this point students can pan, tilt, and zoom all around the 3D figure derived from the rotation of their 2D profile. But wait! There’s more.
By pressing the “Play” button, the students will see a very slick animation of how the solid can be constructed using a set pattern of regular 4.5 mm thick cardboard pieces. If that wasn’t enough to justify the price of admission (free), the next step produces a print file on 8.5 x 11 paper that the student can transfer onto cardboard cut out to assemble the actual 3D model in either radial or stacked format.
The free PC and Mac Versions are much more robust, but even at the App level you have a free 3D design, 3D modeling, and 3D printing platform to get you started, without even having to have a 3D printer!
Tinkercad is a free, easy to learn, online app that anyone can use to create and print 3D models.
Tinkercad does require an account be created, but from what I understand, the standard operating procedure in schools is for the teacher to create a class account, and have students log in using the teacher-managed account.
Tinkercad provides a great entry point to real 3d modeling for students that actually allows them to create files that the can print on a 3D printer.
If you are personally interested in adding some 3D elements to the STEAM environment in your classroom. Please try these out or contact the STEAM Integration Specialist. I will be more than happy to assist you and your students add this new dimension to your teaching and their learning.